I did not think that I could be more depressed than I felt during and after attending last night’s performance of THE NARCISSIST by Stephen Carleton at the Opera House. Then, I woke up this morning and heard the 7am news bulletin about the new NSW Police Minister, Matt Brown, who had "quit the state cabinet just three days after being promoted" as details emerged of behaviour that were deemed inappropriate for a member of cabinet. My depression deepened. The elected Government of my state just seems to be made up and led by "Cowboys". In the final scene of THE NARCISSIST, the narcissist himself, a character called Xavier, after a career as a spin doctor for a media organisation, decides that his next career move will be as an elected member of government. The final moments of the play has our Xavier with an election poster – a huge photograph of him with the slogan “Our Xavier” beneath it. He “pulls out a texta and scribbles a moustache over it. He is about to exit then thinks again. Heads back to the poster and writes ‘POOF’ across his forehead. Winks at it. Exits.” Why a playwright in the year 2008 would think this was satire and/or funny is beyond me. It is a wildly antediluvian and inappropriate gesture. As this behaviour is supposed to be that of an approved candidate for government, (albeit fictional in this case ) it was a sad question I asked myself as I lay there in my bed “Is this Art reporting on Life?” or "Life imitating Art".
There used to be joke as your plane was coming into land in
In the program Stephen Carleton muses that when La Boite commissioned him to write THE NARCISSIST, "I decided to raid the larder of European theatre’s comedy tradition to find the right form for what it was I was trying to say politically. I read a lot of Jonson, Moliere, and Sheridan, through to Wilde." Mr Carleton in his biography tells us that he teaches playwriting, dramaturgy, postcolonial and Australian drama at UQ. (
The writing in this play has a good sense of farce structure but the writing of the characters lacks depth and insight, the comic "gags" and exchanges hardly rise above university revue wit: facile and/or plain offensive. The actors in this production should be given medals of honour for sheer bravado and skill as they desperately rev themselves up to keep this thin piece of trivia afloat. In fact the two women Andrea Moor and Judy Hainsworth are worth watching to see the power of will and technique over slender material to create some semblance of believability and comedy. Of the men I thought James Stewart gave a terminably stupid character a real basis for existence other than as a function for the writer.
If this text was chosen because it was A: an Australian Play and B: it was a comedy, might I suggest that the presentation of a rarely seen (at least in
This is not a Co-Op production. This is a production of
Playing now until 11 October. Book online or call 02 9250 177.