Tag Archives: Gemma Aked-Priestley

The Narcissist

The Narcissist


Arcola Theatre

The Narcissist

The Narcissist

Arcola Theatre

Reviewed – 7th July 2021



“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.



Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Ridhish Devani


The Narcissist

Arcola Theatre until 11th July


Previously reviewed this year by Miriam:
Tarantula | ★★★★ | Online | April 2021
Reunion | ★★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | May 2021
My Son’s A Queer But What Can You Do | ★★★½ | The Turbine Theatre | June 2021


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Gracie – 4 Stars



 Finborough Theatre

Reviewed – 30th April 2018


“The performance is beautiful, pitched perfectly to capture both naivety and knowing”


Fundamentalism and personal freedom are examined in Gracie at the Finborough Theatre. Growing up in the confines of a fundamentalist Mormon Community in Utah, Gracie is a lively happy little girl consciously unaware of the restrictions put upon her. Produced by Tanzanite Theatre, Joan Macleod’s play has a tangible relevance in light of current gender politics.

One-person shows are tough, both for performer and audience. But this is an accomplished and engaging production. Although a guest on the set of another production, Gemma Aked-Priestley’s direction is light and encompassing, making full use of the intimate space. At ninety minutes, there are moments that seem prolonged, but Carla Langley’s energetic delivery never lets the pace dwindle too long. The performance is beautiful, pitched perfectly to capture both naivety and knowing. Gracie is charming and winsome, loving and trusting of her Mamma. Equally there are flashes of understanding as the demands placed on her and those she loves become more unsavoury. Langley creates Gracie’s family with precision and care. It’s a fantastic job.

The only weakness is in the Mormons themselves. Their lifestyle still seems obscure. Shelby, Jamie and Stanley, the men who pose a direct threat to Gracie and her family, remain largely abstract. Shelby has a charismatic menace, but we see little more to justify Mamma’s trust in him or understand her choice to bring her children to a place where she is immediately separated from son Billy. Jamie and Stanley are simply bad husbands. The good Mormon Sister-wives, while sympathetic, also lack depth. This for me is problematic. While seeing this world through a child’s eye allows us to see how indoctrination can be normalised, the danger seems too severe. It feels like while this piece has a very strong argument, it’s missing a component to give a fully rounded picture.

However, this is a thought provoking show with a memorable performance at its core. Definitely worth a look.


Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com



 Finborough Theatre until 15th May



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