In a pop cultural realm where Paris Hilton types dominate headlines and every sitcom feels the need to feature its token gay, a play like The Narcissist is doubly refreshing for its willingness to lambast the cult of self while also placing a gay protagonist in the central role.

The Narcissist, a deliciously satirical piece from the Brisbane-based playwright Stephen Carleton, holds no punches back as the audience is drawn into the somewhat vapid realm of its two central characters, Xavier -” an up and coming gay political spin doctor -” and his best friend Bronwyn, a budding interior design columnist.

The two enter into a serious bet to see who can be the first to bag a man before New Year’s only for the most ludicrous outcomes to arise as the pair get involved with award-winning baristas and reality TV show hopefuls, all in the hope of finding true love, or at least true lust.

Inspired by the traditional farce comedies of Molière and English restoration theatre rather than any direct personal experiences, Carleton says the characters reflect the ever growing rise of narcissism in popular culture.

Each of the different characters in the play represents a different aspect of that narcissistic culture that has arisen, Carleton told Sydney Star Observer.

The thesis of the play I suppose is that we’re comprehensively narcissistic at the moment. Everyone it seems is interested in this gratification of the self, and the cult of the young, beautiful self who values things over intimacy.

With the play selling out its season in Brisbane and generating much anticipation in Sydney, it would seem to be a theme that many feel is important to explore right now.

It’s been surprising. It’s definitely struck a chord that I didn’t expect, Carleton said.

There seems to be something about the immediacy of the pop cultural references that has connected with audiences but I think the core idea that people are connecting to is the idea of intimacy, the fact that all of these people are being driven by a fear of being left behind and stranded at the altar.

The play is about the search for intimacy and a whole range of fears which have been interesting to explore through a gay character. Just a decade ago you wouldn’t have seen a central gay character at all, let alone being the medium through which you would explore these sorts of anxieties, but I think that’s changing and it’s definitely something I want to work towards and get more central gay characters up on the stage.

info: The Narcissist runs at the Sydney Opera House drama theatre from 28 August to 4 October. Tickets are $77. Bookings through sydneytheatrecompany.com.au or on 9250 7777.

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