Manchester Theatre Awards

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Narcissist In The Mirror (The Greater Manchester Fringe Festival)

Rosie Fleeshman
In The Mirror Theatre Company
The Kings Arms, Salford
15 July 2017 to 16 July 2017

After years in the wilderness an actor (Rosie Fleeshman who wrote the play) has made it to the point where she has her own dressing room and a mirror in which she can watch herself preen. It is surprising that success has taken so long; after all she has been acting all her life first trying to attract the attention and love of a distant mother and later a parade of lovers. Yet something seems out of place and the actor feels the need to address certain issues that are bothering her.

Actors are not known for having a sense of proportion so watching a play written by an actor about an actor is not all that appealing. Thankfully Narcissist In The Mirror is not so much about the craft of acting as it is a character study and a highly entertaining one at that. The only true ‘actor’ joke is the character rushing offstage to swear after mentioning ‘Macbeth’.

The title must be intended as ironic as, rather than a self-regarding egoist, Rosie Fleeshman presents a surprisingly self-aware character. The character does not so much act as adapt constantly changing behaviour to suit someone she is trying to please. Fleeshman suggests someone trapped in a compulsive pattern of behaviour and who knows perfectly well that her dedication to her craft is motivated by a desperate need to be liked that originated in childhood and contributed to her having such shockingly low self-esteem that she will shag anything in trousers. Chatting to an imaginary psychiatrist the actor lists the lovers she has seduced and abandoned in her shallow efforts to make herself feel loved.

It ought to be a sordid tale but Fleeshman’ s script is full of lively dialogue and marvellously funny descriptions of the actor’s misadventures and the people encountered in her travels. Much of the dialogue is delivered in Kate Tempest style blank verse as if the actor is hiding behind the tools of her craft even in her mental deliberations.

Director Sue Jenkins sets a restless tone with Fleeshman moving around the stage as if testing the boundaries she has imposed upon herself and exploring the limited area through which she can travel.

There is a creeping awareness that things are not as they seem which is the only real area where Narcissist In The Mirror is not completely satisfying. In terms of the plot it is a bit too easy to guess the twist but this remains a superbly acted and witty play.

Reviewer: David Cunningham


Comment by Carmel Thomason

This is a lyrical, witty and above all wise monologue that could only have been written by someone who has lived many of the truths the character spills out to an unseen therapist. Rosie Fleeshman doesn't hide the autobiographical nature of much the material - the character is an actor, writes a one woman play, has a mother called Sue and two older siblings. In this respect it is a brave move both on the part of Rosie and her mother, Sue Jenkins who directs. It is also real and brilliant, revealing Rosie's talent as both a writer and actor in a way that probably no-one so familiar with her family in Manchester could have imagined. It was clear, and not just simply from the standing ovation, that the audience on Saturday night were taken aback at how someone of her young years (24) could have written and performed such a knowing play. As one playwright in the audience joked: 'That was brilliant. Let's bump her off now.'

Although an intense hour, Rosie demonstrates skilled comic timing, weaving laughs and lifting the mood with a single line. It's at King's Arms again on Sunday 16 July as part of the Greater Manchester Fringe festival, but I hope it gets a longer life on another stage in the future before Rosie's attentions are directed elsewhere. 

Comment by Kevin Bourke

Yes, it's a terrific piece of work and will indeed have a longer life as it's just been announced that the show, plus a Q and A with Rosie and Sue, will be part of the opening season of "Saddleworth Live At The Millgate" (programmed by Tim and Michael, formerly of The Swan in Dobcross), on Sunday October 22nd.