“I hated it a whole lot less than I thought I was going to ten minutes in”
Whilst the one-man show has become the de facto format for new theatre this year, it’s also really the only format appropriate for a play expounding on the benefits of narcissism as a world view, with the help of nothing but a flip chart, some pink haze lighting and a playlist of big ‘80s hits (Sam Glossop).
“We’re all self-obsessed. The only difference between you and me, is I’m louder”, so says Will Adolphy, dressed in sunset leggings and neon pink sweat bands, as he takes us through the five lessons we need in order to fully embrace his narcissistic teachings.
When Will was twenty, his dad committed suicide. He’d spent his whole life saying to Will, “I’m doing all this for you!” But a life dedicated to everyone’s but his own happiness ultimately led to unbearable misery. So, Will posits, the best thing you can do, instead of trying to be a good, selfless, caring person, is to be entirely selfish and self-obsessed, or rather, own up to how selfish and self-obsessed you truly are.
The premise smacks of Richard Gadd’s careful cocktail of shocking comedy and red-raw honesty in shows such as Monkey See, Monkey Do. But it’s a very difficult thing to get right, and Adolphy doesn’t quite hit the mark. All the ingredients are there: he’s clearly willing to put his own pain front and centre, and he’s got good- sometimes great- comic timing.
But the aim of this story seems to be either to genuinely preach that we should all only do what we want and feel like doing, regardless of how it affects others, in which case, it feels like a trauma narrative and not something to laugh at. And if this is exactly what Adolphy wanted, he needs to lean in and, as cruel as it sounds, properly access his trauma. He needs to choke the audience’s laughter, rather than use it as an ineffective shield.
Alternatively, Adolphy is trying to preach a kind of individualism which would ultimately make society a happier place, in which case, he needs to work out how he really wants to put this message across because that’s not what I left feeling. The comedy is too light where the message needs some traction. Yes, it might be amusing to sing a song about how big your penis is, and then write your phone number on a flip chart, but it doesn’t really get the message across that being a narcissist is a winning idea.
The other option is that Adolphy is going for a kind of satire, in which case, it’s got to be a lot funnier and a lot grittier.
In short, The Narcissist (directed by Gemma Aked-Priestly) doesn’t know what it is. But with a brutal re-write it could be very interesting. And, in a kind of defence, I hated it a whole lot less than I thought I was going to ten minutes in.
“a fantastic production which is sure to have even the most hardened horror fan on the edge of their seat”
In 2014, two twelve-year-old girls from Wisconsin stabbed their supposed best friend 19 times in an attempt to appease the fictional internet creation Slender Man. Fortunately, the victim survived, having crawled to a road where she was found, and the two girls were subsequently found not guilty by mental disease or defect. Something Awful, the new play from award-winning Flux Theatre written by Tatty Hennessy and directed by Lucy Jane Atkinson, takes inspiration from this gruesome tale and the horrors that lurk on online forums.
Soph (Natalya Martin) and her best friend Jel (Monica Anne) love reading scary stories on websites such as Creepypasta, that is, until new girl Ellie (Melissa Parker) turns up with her own horror story of a mysterious figure with an axe in the nearby forest. The line between fiction and reality slowly begins to blur with disastrous consequences.
Something Awful takes a fascinating premise and addresses issues becoming increasingly relevant in our society. The ease in which children can access grotesque and inappropriate content on the internet is an obvious concern for parents, and the real-life case which the play is based on demonstrates the possible terrifying results of such exposure. A scene in which Soph gets her first period at a sleepover reminds us just how young these characters are despite the media they are consuming, and the quick installation of a VPN on their mobile devices shows just how quickly young people can get around the barriers in place for their protection.
All three women are fantastically convincing in their roles, and have excellent chemistry. The play’s pacing is good for the most part though the morbid conclusion to the tale is perhaps a bit rushed. Some more build up to the girls’ decision would be appreciated though this does also make the ending all the more dramatic in its suddenness.
The set (Bethany Pratt) is very simple. Two tables are moved around the stage for different scenes, in some, they are desks, in another a bed and, in the performance’s final moments, either side of a forest path. Props are also minimal. The cast carry school backpacks from which appear, amongst other things, a laptop, a takeaway container and some scissors.
The lighting (Holly Ellis) is slick and perfectly reflective of the mood on stage. When Soph reads out a terrifying tale, the stage slowly darkens until only she is left in the spotlight. Green hues are also used frequently to give a thoroughly creepy feel to the show. There is potential for certain moments to be creepier – for example, the opening story about a disfigured woman would pack more punch if Parker was to wear a mask – but this had no real impact on the show’s overall affect.
Overall, Something Awful is a fantastic production which is sure to have even the most hardened horror fan on the edge of their seat.