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It's All About You - Ian Lawson Interview

Author: Darryn King
Monday, 8 September 2008

3D's Darryn King speaks with Ian Lawson, director of La Boite Theatre Company's latest production, The Narcissist - delivering bad behaviour, foul language and a healthy dollop of cynicism about our age of self-obsession.

Xavier is a 30-something, gay, single and self-obsessed alp spin doctor. He makes a bet with Bronwyn, an equally jaded single woman in her 40s, that he can bag a husband before she can- welcome to The Narcissist.

Xavier has been labelled an 'anti-hero'. Do you think that's a fair term to describe him-
I do think 'anti-hero' is fair. His actions in the play for the most part are far from noble yet, in the end, we love him because he says and does things we would all like to, and he even has a moment of truth where he displays an unexpected level of vulnerability and accepts his own limitations.

Is Oscar Wilde a good point of comparison when it comes to the verbal shenanigans taking place in the play-

Absolutely. In fact the last line of the play is a homage to Oscar Wilde. Keep an ear out for it!

Are we all being turned into shallow narcissists to some extent-
The simple answer is yes. Every aspect of our society is increasingly being geared towards the individual: politics, culture, advertising and so on. Under the Howard government it seemed that every issue was reduced to its economic impact on the individual and that successive major personal tax cuts came at the expense of investment in infrastructure or other choices that support a collective society.

What about from a cultural perspective-
There too we are now more self-obsessed than ever, prizing youth, beauty and celebrity above more altruistic pursuits. The past decade has seen the rise of a brand of reality television that offers contestants instant fame and recognition. Some of them (and I am primarily thinking here of Big Brother) offer this without the need for either specific skills or ability and in fact celebrate the mundane. This, coupled with such phenomena as the rise in do-it-yourself journalism in the form of blogging, has contributed to an environment that while positively democratic, values self-expression at the expense of expertise and humility.
As to why this is happening- I would have to suggest that it is the natural evolution of a young society that has acquired enormous wealth and values winning at all costs! 

Xavier is a spin-doctor for the ALP, so has the recent change in government affected this detail of his character somewhat-
We have had to adjust the text a little to cope with the change in government, but it hasn't needed to be as radical as first thought because Xavier is working on a by-election and not a general election in the federal seat of Meninga and so it has affected the landscape of the play rather than specific plot points. But it has provided a few opportunities to have a playful go at Mr. Rudd. We have also had to deal with the demise of Big Brother.

What about Brisbane as the location - will that aspect of the script get a little tweaking for Sydney audiences-
In a word, no. We will keep the script as is because you don't have to know the locations to understand what they are referring to, as they are generally contextualised. If anything, the gags that do contain Brisbane references are self-deprecating and so Sydney audiences should enjoy them.

WHAT: The Narcissist
WHERE: Sydney Opera House Drama Theatre
WHEN: Until 4 October
MORE: sydneytheatre.com.au

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