The Narcissist is a one-man comedy show in the style of a self-help talk in the new open air section of the Arcola Theatre.
Will Adolphy plays himself, reimagined as a guru on narcissism and how to be honest with yourself. Originally in the classic jeans and a button down shirt, Adolphy quickly transforms into your more conventional ‘guru’, wearing obnoxiously bright leggings and a crass slogan tee. Oh, and cue the fluorescent wristbands and headband reminiscent of an 80s music video we all want to forget. This man certainly understands the visuals and props needed to exude the toxic masculinity of a conference aimed at entrepreneurs with a poster of Elon Musk hung next to their bed.
Adolphy is accompanied by an empty stage except from the corporate staple of the paper flipchart and some mysterious items hidden beneath black cloths. The flipchart adds to the cringy self-help atmosphere, but also guides us through the show as a marker of different segments and themes. In a piece without a plot it is a brilliant driver through the one hour run-time.
Adolphy is a charismatic performer – whilst his character is smarmy, his performance exudes a warmth that keeps us engaged and amused. His comedy is often silly and veers between physical gags such as a shoe that cannot be removed and repetitive gags that mock his self-obsession. This man will give his number out to anyone, watch out.
This is a comedy show, and so audience participation is a must. In a small venue and audience, the environment is intimate and relaxed and allows for this interaction to feel as natural as possible. It is definitely awkward at points, and whilst the play is about narcissism the constant jokes about the performers looks begin to become a bit old. I feel there is more to narcissism than physical attractiveness and this could be explored more to create a more well-rounded comedic portrayal of the self-obsessed man. There are enough out there to base it off of.
This is a fun show for sure, I enjoy a titter and an occasional awkward sigh, but it is an hour full of entertainment. Stage by stage we, with Adolphy, reflect on our narcissism and self-interest and are even challenged to give our socks for a homeless man. Aforesaid homeless man perhaps does not exist – he is in the story of the show as a comment on those who do charity work for their ego, and in Adolphy’s case to obtain five dates a week, but I hope my socks at least made it to a clothing donation point.
In a year with a much smaller Edinburgh Fringe, this is the sort of show that reminds me of the strengths of festivals and venues that support quirky one-person shows. No matter how obscure the subject matter, how inevitably awkward some jokes may be, they sure are a bit of fun.
The Narcissist was on at the Arcola until 11 July 2021. For more information see the Arcola’s website.