The NarcissistIt is not often that one gets to see good theatre that is delightfully original and specifically fashioned for the audience who will receive it. Often it seems plays are written out of the playwright’s desire to express his/her opinions on the world; or performances are designed to explore a concept or particular theme. While there is some evidence of this occurring in La Boite’s The Narcissist, this commissioned play by Stephen Carleton is almost constitutional: it is a play by the people, for the people, and about the people. No ifs, buts or maybes, this play is vainly and unashamedly Brisbane. It is pure self-indulgence, and it feels good. “It’s all about me!

Stephen Carleton’s The Narcissist
is all about Xavier (played by the compelling Sandro Colarelli). Xavier, an ALP marketing expert, and his best friend and interior designer Bronwyn (played by the equally enchanting Andrea Moor) place a bet – who can be the first to bag a husband by New Years Eve. Enter Xavier’s blast from the past ex-boyfriend Jesse (Scott Parmeter) with his new and innocent fiancée Y’landah (Judy Hainsworth), along with Xavier’s extra-sensitive metrosexual housemate Satchel (Jonathon Brand) and suddenly the competition is warming up. In a game of lies versus almost truths, cover-ups and scandals abound.

This cunning, witty and flamboyant play is like a mirror into contemporary society – politically astute and morally ambiguous, and yet you can’t help but think how good you look. The atmosphere of the Roundhouse Theatre is luscious. With black leather couches and designer cocktails, the set depicts Xavier as materialistic and highly fashionable. Upon his entrance, the audience knows that their presumptions were correct. Carleton’s choice to use farce as his form was perfect. His vain, irrational, secretive characters; his ridiculous situations; and the quick and witty wordplay, are all used perfectly to convey the conceited view of modern society, and the actors are well adjusted to the task.

Where in typical farce, the protagonist is usually presented sympathetically, The Narcissist presents Xavier relentlessly – showing his faults and failures as his good qualities. Xavier is a consistent liar, yet without his lying, manipulating and patronising ways, he ceases to be true to himself. Xavier is the ultimate extreme version of ourselves – we only take action if it benefits us individually. Even down to the narration technique that Carleton employs, Xavier is proven to love the sound of his own voice. While at times these moments seem corny and unreal, it doesn’t take away from the overall feel of the play, for we are set up from the start to expect over-the-top, glitzy behaviour.

The stunning rendition of The Divinyl’s “I Touch Myself” creates the impeccable and humorous conclusion for The Narcissist. In keeping with La Boite’s credo to create high quality, contemporary Australian theatre, The Narcissist is literally set here and now – in 2007 in New Farm (an inner-city Brisbane suburb). As such, it pokes fun at contemporary Australian issues, feeling no need to shy away from issues such as gay relationships, commercial religions, political inconsistencies and Big Brother idiocies. It includes such intricate details of the Brisbane lifestyle that it feels like a conversation you have with your own friends: jokes about the new Gallery of Modern Art or the Wickham nightclub that only Brisbanites would understand. Yet therein lies perhaps the downfall of this play. While it will rate outstandingly in Brisbane, it may not have the same success in places like Sydney or even Rockhampton. The play is designed so specifically for a Brisbane audience, that it has created its own very exclusive market.

The Narcissist is good contemporary theatre. It achieves what most plays forget – relativity with its audience. It is refreshing to find that Brisbane can both create and be central to good theatre. As a citizen of Brisbane, one often feels overlooked when it comes to what is considered as being good Australian theatre. The Narcissist stands up to this stereotype and defends Brisbane’s right to be part of the theatrical community. Funny, charming and clever, The Narcissist is a must-see for all Brisbanites. Hopefully the rest of the country will feel the same.

La Boite Theatre Company presents  
The Narcissist
By Stephen Carleton   

Venue: Roundhouse Theatre
Dates: 1 – 17 March 2007 PLEASE NOTE: Season Extended until 24 March
Times: Tue & Wed 6.30pm, Thu-Sat 8pm
Opening Night: 1 March 8pm.
Matinees: Wed 28 February, Tue 6 & 13 March 11am, Sat 17 March 2pm. After Show Discussion - 9 March
Tickets: $22 - $55 | Group Discounts: $35 for 10+, $19 for school groups. Booking fees apply

Most read Brisbane reviews

Now playing Brisbane