Christopher Shinn’s new play The Narcissist has opened at the Chichester Festival Theatre.
Starring Harry Lloyd (Game of Thrones) and Claire Skinner (Outnumbered), the play is directed by Josh Seymour, and is a sharp and witty play set against the background of American politics.
The cast also includes Caroline Gruber, Akshay Khanna, Stuart Thompson, Paksie Vernon and Jenny Walser.
The wider creative team includes Designer Jasmine Swan, Lighting Designer Jess Bernberg, Sound Designer Alexandra Faye Braithwaite, Movement Director Chi-San Howard, Casting Director Amy Ball CDG, Dialect Coach Michaela Kennen, Voice Coach Tess Dignan, Assistant Director Elin Schofield, Production Manager John Page, Costume Supervisor Jennie Quirk, Props Supervisor Jamie Owens, Company Stage Manager Robert Perkins, Deputy Stage Manager Olivia Roberts and Assistant Stage Manager Ellie Penney
The play is set in the in 2017, and former electoral strategist Jim, played by Harry Lloyd, is cynical and burnt out after working on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
The Narcissist runs in the Minerva Theatre until 24 September 2022.
More reviews to follow
"The ghost of Trump haunts the stage again"
"Harry Lloyd stars as an electoral strategist in a new work which isn't quite sure what it is saying"
"As played by Harry Lloyd, Jim oozes self-composure and intelligence offset by a chill detachment. He’s far from being preeningly self-obsessed, though."
"He’s surrounded by characters who either seem under-written or interact with him in ways that can have a slightly hollow ring – not least Claire Skinner’s Democrat senator who emerges as little more than a cipher."
"I applaud its ambition, but it’s not yet the hoped-for play for today."
"Bristles with ideas"
"Razor-sharp and thought-provoking exploration of America’s political and social landscape tries to tackle too much"
"Shinn aims high and far here, setting up the play’s opposition between the senator’s belief in people’s essential optimism and Jim’s nihilistic view of an angry, fearful electorate, indoctrinated by social media, who only want politicians who will admit that everything is corrupt. At the same time, via the lens of Jim and his family, the play tackles America’s opioid crisis and explores the issue of sexual identity."
"Shinn slices through the many issues he’s laying bare with scalpel-like dialogue. The effect is engrossing, provocative and intellectually exhilarating, but can be airless. The counterpoints don’t always land with clarity, even if they’re injected with some Sahara-dry humour."
"Ambitious, witty but frustratingly uneven"
"It’s trying to say too much. Christopher Shinn’s play about a disillusioned, not to say nihilistic, American political consultant raises important questions about democracy, privacy, addiction and how we stay sane in a world where technology threatens to overwhelm us. But there are three or four different stories jostling for attention here."
"As Jim, Harry Lloyd has to deliver a tricky combination of self-loathing and self-importance."
"Each character is self-regarding, in line with the title — though, interestingly, Lloyd's Jim is the least so. He's the reasonable guy, explaining how the world works to others who are not so clued-up."
"Lloyd, at least, is tremendously watchable in Josh Seymour's production which literally immerses Jim in the social media apps he uses. Jasmine Swan's set makes his world look like a sleek iPad, with neon trims surrounded by satellite pods from which friends, family and colleagues butt in."
"It catches the way modern life is digitally compartmentalised, but suggests only the benefits — rather than the irritating reality of oblivious people always hunched over their phones."
"A darkly honest dissection of post-Trump politics"
"A spin doctor’s life spirals into chaos after he’s hired by an ambitious senator in Christopher Shinn’s grimly comic drama"
"Claire Skinner’s bright, brittle senator, who finally surprises with her views, impresses without an impression of any one politician. Harry Lloyd’s Jim exposes shaded layers of pain as a man understanding his country’s identity better than his own, and plays a frighteningly funny cross-generational dating disaster scene with Stuart Thompson’s reflexively judgmental young man."
"Christopher Shinn’s new play of post-Trump politics finds complex characters lost in ego and addiction"
"Josh Seymour’s production swoops adroitly from shrewd argument to intimate dialogue and jittery sputter: two characters are addicted to opiates and everyone is fighting addiction to their screens"
"People really change in the course of The Narcissist – not as common in plays as you might think. Politics and personality are unstably bound together. In an evening of finely controlled performances, Stuart Thompson is outstanding as the would-be boyfriend: earnestly proclaiming his socialist credentials, quietly preening as he tucks a curl behind an ear."
"It’s that splintered and toxic public arena that Shinn seeks to portray, and this gripping, if fitful, play is at its best when opening out on stage the weird mix of hyperconnectivity and profound loneliness that can characterise contemporary living."
"Throughout, Harry Lloyd’s Jim is never fully present — always distracted by events elsewhere. And as the battle for attention shifts from Claire Skinner’s beautifully observed politician, to Jim’s co-writer on a book, to his opioid-addicted brother, the question of who merits the “narcissist” title keeps swinging around."
"Harry Lloyd is fluent and passionate in the role, but good heavens this is wordy and dense stuff, comprising mostly static, talky scenes between two people. When the piece then tries to loop in the evils of opioid addiction without much of the how or why, you feel that Shinn is shoehorning in too many issues without allowing his ideas, or his characters, to breathe."