Narcissist in the Mirror
Reviewed – 27th February 2019
“a hurricane of emotions that rages, unflagging, for the full hour”
Narcissus is an aspiring, vibrant young actress. She graduated from one of the top drama schools in the country, but finds herself floundering in the real world. Auditions are slow to come in and the rejections pile up. Meanwhile, millennial life is cold and isolating: a circus of meaningless Tinder dates and shallow social media connections. All of Narcissus’ hopes and ambitions, fears and anger, memories and dreams come flooding out to an imagined therapist in her dressing room.
Written and performed by Rosie Fleeshman, Narcissist in the Mirror is her debut one-woman show. It’s a piece that incorporates spoken word and poetry performance. As Narcissus discusses her life and struggles, lighting cues signal shifts into poems, which Fleeshman has woven into the narrative. They confront subjects such as the competitive and deceptive nature of social media, anxiety and depression, the standards for being a ‘good feminist’, the difficulty of forming real friendships beyond the façade of connection social media offers, and the importance of grammar now that dating is often more than fifty percent messaging. It’s incisive, hard-hitting commentary on the modern world. You will relate or you will sympathise. Fleeshman’s brilliant and vulnerable character doesn’t give you other options.
It’s an impressive performance. Fleeshman is wild and manic as the narcissistic actress, but also devastatingly open, tears filling her eyes as she displays her metaphorical scars for our judgment. She’s a hurricane of emotions that rages, unflagging, for the full hour. She’s captivating; it’s impossible to look away. The strength of her voice, matching the force of her character, makes Fleeshman one of the first performers I’ve seen at The Vaults to successfully compete with the trains going by overhead.
Fleeshman’s writing is as accomplished as her acting. Vivid, electric language conveys razor-sharp insights. She tells stories, addressing the audience. She does impressions of her mother and friends. She confesses to a psychologist. She slides in and out of poetry. The rhythm of her rhymes is powerful. She skilfully mines modern insecurities, and brings up exquisite contradictions: Can you be a feminist if your waist-size is important to you? What do you do when socialising is exhausting, but you hate being alone? How can we be so connected and feel so isolated at the same time?
There are places where the self-analysis becomes a bit excessive. And the ending is slightly awkward with Fleeshman bypassing good moments for the final blackout several times to add a bit more. But overall, it’s a strong, piercingly relevant piece. As a performer and writer, Fleeshman is a force to be reckoned with.
Reviewed by Addison Waite
Photography courtesy Nothing to Declare Productions
Narcissist in the Mirror
Part of VAULT Festival 2019