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On Stage with the Self: A Mirror to Modern Narcissism

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of experiencing the best play I've ever seen: Sarah Snook's interpretation of "The Picture of Dorian Gray."

Snook was not just performing; her transformation into Wilde's 26 characters was a journey into the heart of modern narcissism.


Oscar Wilde's work dives deep, far beyond the superficial worries of age or beauty. It's about what happens when our growth gets derailed. The tale reflects crucial life stages, suggesting that when this natural progression stumbles, people end up chasing validation in all the wrong places.


On stage, the modern twist was a mirror for today's world. The technology used was a symbol for our daily battles with the digital reflections that skew our self-image.


What struck me most was the part where Snook used digital filters on stage. For me this was more than just for dramatic effect; it was a representation of our social media-driven obsession with image. These filters, meant to enhance, end up distorting our self-perception. Studies by Andreassen, Pallesen & Griffiths (2017) and Buffardi & Campbell (2008) highlight how this online behaviour can amplify self-obsession, leading us away from our genuine selves.


Sarah Snook's portrayal of Dorian Gray was nothing short of revelatory. A character who was eternally youthful and physically alluring and caught in the web of his own narcissism. Alice Miller's (1989) proposed the concept of the 'mirroring mother'—the idea that children need their mother to reflect back an image of themselves that is complete, strong, and full of potential. This early recognition and understanding by a caregiver helps to form the foundation of a child's developing self-esteem and identity. In Miller's view, when this mirroring is absent or distorted, individuals such as Dorian spend their lives seeking out this continous external validation, to the detriment of their own authentic self and relationships.


Her representation went beyond aesthetics; she delved into the essence of Dorian's character, revealing a man blinded by his own ego. Dorian fails to see the humanity in others, treating them instead as objects, essentially mere instruments to satisfy his desires. This depiction underscored the challenge many with narcissistic traits face in acknowledging the autonomy and worth of those around them, showcasing the pitfalls of profound self-absorption.


The play for me was an immersive conversation. The interaction between Snook's live acting and her digital counterparts was a powerful representation of the internal dialogue we all have, the one between our different selves, aiming for harmony.


As I left, the performance stayed with me, echoing. "The Picture of Dorian Gray" turned out to be more than theatre; it was an introspective journey into selfhood in our digital age, blending classic literature with modern insights and reminding us that authenticity remains our most significant challenge and goal.


Run, don’t walk if you want to see this brilliant play as it finishes on the 11th of May!



Andreassen, C.S., Pallesen, S. & Griffiths, M.D. (2017). The relationship between addictive use of social media, narcissism, and self-esteem: Findings from a large national survey. Addictive Behaviors, 64, pp.287-293.


Buffardi, L.E. & Campbell, W.K. (2008). Narcissism and social networking websites. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(10), pp.1303-1314.


Miller, A. (1989). The Drama of Being a Child. New York: Basic Books.


Schwartz-Salant, N. (1982). Narcissism and Character Transformation: The Psychology of Narcissistic Character Disorders. Toronto: Inner City Books.

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