Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis
Music and Lyrics: Duncan Sheik
Director: Rupert Goold
Reviewer: Lou Flaxman
Bret Easton Ellis’ controversial slasher satire, American Psycho, is a disturbing portrait of the financial greed and yuppy consumerism of the 1980‘s, a grotesque inversion of the American dream, which divided critics when it was first published in 1991.Wonderfully scheduled to coincide with the slew of life-affirming Christmas specials that fill our theatres across December, Rupert Goold’s stunning new musical tones down the slasher and boosts up the satire to brilliantly incisive comic effect.
Patrick Bateman, a Wall Street investment banker, utterly devoted to the material world he and his Ivy League cohorts carefully construct, takes a chainsaw, a knife or an axe to anyone who fails to meet his rigorous standards of perfection, or who embodies any of Patrick’s own potential failings.Bateman is played with an excellent balance of charm and removal by Matt Smith, whose inconsistent singing is forgiven for his nuanced performance which sees a slimy cool on the brink of parting to reveal intense anxiety and paranoia at any given moment.
Goold’s production, an Almeida Theatre and Headlong co-production in association with Act 4 Entertainment,is masterly- slick, contemporary and very witty. The same can also be said for Duncan Sheik’s songs, which pound and reverberate with a detached 80’s electronic fuzz, rhyming Manolo Blahnik with ironic. Es Devlin’s design is brilliantly evocative of the sharp and paradoxically sparse indulgence of the 80’s yuppy aesthetic- deliberately empty apartments and vastly expensive contemporary art that Bateman cannot tell which way up to hang.
The production is a wonderfully crisp and funny take on the original story, which depicts rather than investigates social paranoia and dispassion, but what it makes up for in dazzling staging, it lacks somewhat in risk-taking. Without the more extreme aspects of the novel, of course impossible to stage, and with Smith’s Bateman at odds with a world that is thoroughly hollow and objectionable any way, it lacks the ruthless horror of the original book and at times feels a little too safe.
That being said, while the production may not be as boundary-pushing as it seems at first, it is a brilliant realisation of a completely mad idea, and with the run completely sold out (although day seats available everyday from 11am), it looks set to be a deserved success.