Review: Portrait of a Narcissist

Nick Stevens, joined by support act Rick Carter, takes audiences on an all too familiar journey of vanity, egotism, and self-adoration. (Image source: Portrait of a Narcissist Fringe)

By Michelle Wakim | @MichelleWakim

Portrait of a Narcissist, written and performed by comedian Nick ‘Nickyboy’ Stevens, is a frank and engaging 90-minute production which unpacks, reclaims, and celebrates self-obsession.

Stevens, a comedian of over a decade, not only anchors his script in narcistic themes, but shamelessly and cleverly structures the show to highlight himself as the main attraction. This is done predominantly through the inclusion of support act Rick Carter, a first-time comedian in his 70s.

Stevens, the self-proclaimed ‘Renaissance man’, makes the point of writing Carter’s set to demonstrate just how talented his writing capabilities are as a comic. Having a support act also echoes Stevens’ regard for himself – a performer with enough recognition to have a pre-game special – and is a unique and amusing way for Stevens to play into the themes of his production.

Carter’s set is predominately made up of witty observations from the perspective of a ‘modern-elder’ – someone who has an appreciation for both the ‘then’ and ‘now’. However, when discussions of political correctness arise and the ‘back in my day’ trope rears its head, the script walks the uncomfortable line comedy often does, but serves as a clever inclusion to highlight the narcissistic tendencies in every age group.

Carter’s delivery should be applauded; for his first-time performing comedy, he appeared comfortable on stage, working off the audience with only a few opening night jitters coming to the surface.

Narcissism, as a dear friend of the 21st century, attracts a full house for Stevens on his opening night. From the moment Stevens makes his grand entrance, to music that echoes his perception of his own beauty, our comic continues Carter’s comfortable rapport with the audience and establishes a relaxed ambiance within the Moonshots venue.

Stevens connects with the audience through amusing and relatable discussions of Adelaide demographics, parenthood, and truthful remarks regarding the vanity woven into the human condition.

At times throughout his set, Stevens tests the comedic boundary of comfort, commenting on heavy topics, such as paedophilia, custody battles and rape, that are divisive for audiences.

While his softly spoken and quietly arrogant onstage character is well-received by audiences, Stevens’ delivery could afford to be sharpened as multiple pauses are taken to refer to a script. A more seamless performance would solidify the professional distinction between Stevens and Carter.

While being a light-hearted production, Portrait of a Narcissist subtly presents a narrative arc which explains Stevens’ path into narcissism, the stories that carry him through it, and a somewhat conclusion to his narcissistic life after the birth of his daughter. This narrative is a great strength, providing depth and engagement.

Stevens’ comedy is built on both honesty and an absurdity, with his talents for storytelling allowing punchlines to creep up and take you by surprise. At times, the audience is left feeling perplexed by his commentaries, and other times united in laughter: the combination of both experiences make for an entertaining and jovial evening.  

Portrait of a Narcissist is playing at Moonshots until March 20, 2021.

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