Self-help books, CDs and DVDs are ten a penny these days. There are whole sections in Waterstones and Foyles dedicated to helping you improve yourself. However, while all of these try to teach the reader how to feel better about themselves, very few – possibly with the exception of Sarah Knight’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k” take things to a real extreme. That is until Flux Theatre presented The Narcissist which I saw at the Hen & Chickens Theatre.
How to describe The Narcissist? Now that really is a question. Well, writer/performer Will Adolphy has put together a sort of ‘Ted Talk’ with a difference. At the heart of his message is himself, me, you, everybody and the fact that we are, or possibly should be, the most important people in our world. That’s not to assume we are – particularly when confronted with the rather stark answer to the question, “what will happen when you die” – but it is a starting point for enabling us to experience some of the greatest truths we will ever learn.
I’m not going to go into much more detail here because there are a lot of amazing experiences – yes there are some audience participation moments – in this hour-long performance that you genuinely have to live through spoiler free. Will has penned a piece that is almost two conjoined shows and which sit together unsettlingly well.
The for want of a better word ‘lecture’ side of the performance is spot on. Will is a very attractive and energetic young man with intense eyes and a lovely delivery style that creates a tight, friendly bond with his audience so even when he says something amazingly politically incorrect, we still laugh along with him, as you would an old friend. In fact, the presentation style is so good, and the writing so realistic, there were moments when I had to remind myself I wasn’t at some self-help seminar but was actually watching a play. Will really knows how to work an audience and can turn emotions from laugh out loud hilarity to hearing a pin drop silence in a matter of moments.
The second side of the show was darker and really showed off Will’s versatile acting talents. Although a separate story, it was so well interwoven into the lecture portions that it just made sense as being part of the whole. I guess my only negative would be the song which, although well performed, for some reason, didn’t really work for me and broke the atmosphere slightly. Again, this is purely how I felt and to be honest, it didn’t distract that much from the overall narrative.
This was, apparently the world premiere of The Narcissist and based on what I saw, Will and Director Gemma Aked-Priestley should definitely work together again as they have put together a show that flows smoothly from start to finish.
If you are hoping to see a cut-price self-help ‘Ted Talk’ then The Narcissist probably isn’t for you. If on the other hand, you are looking for a well crafted and presented performance that will entertain, inform and ultimately make you question some aspects of yourself, then find out The Narcissist is next playing and get yourself there. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
One word of caution, all of the above is the reality of my view of the show, and I could just be delusional – but, like all good narcissists, I know I’m right.
Review by Terry Eastham
A man gives a ted talk explaining how being a narcissist is the way forward in this world. Each section a new topic: Delusion, Logic, Death etc. We hear stories, philosophy, analogies, music. There is audience participation,
movement, improvisation. This is no ordinary ted talk.
Overlapping the talk and often intrusive, are his utmost inner thoughts and memories revealing a separate narrative yet inextricably linked to each topic. As the talk goes on, it becomes clear the boundary between audience and talker is blurred and the reality seemingly a lot darker.
A brutally fun, immersive and unnerving experience. For this is essentially: A one man show, that merges a ted talk, stand-up and drama to delve deep into the mind of someone with a poisonous addiction to feeling loved.
Will Adolphy – Writer/Performer
Written & performed by Will Adolphy
Produced by Flux Theatre.
Direction by Gemma Aked-Priestly. Lighting & Sound by Glossop.
Hen & Chickens Theatre, 109 St Paul’s Road, N1 2NA.
9th to 11th January 2018