Saturday, 26 April 2014
Directed by Rupert Goold
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (script), Duncan Sheik (music and lyrics)
Starring Matt Smith, Cassandra Compton, Susannah Fielding
Theatre Headlong company at the Almeida Theatre, coming soon to the West End and America
The Almeida Theatre's production of American Psycho: the Musical ended back in February, but with its impending move up to the big time west end scene, The Ephemeric has decided to revisit and belatedly review what looks set to be a very prominent fixture in London theatre towards the tail-end of this year.
But first some history. American Psycho: the Musical is an adaption of the controversial satirical novel by Bret Easton Ellis, which has also famously been adapted to film starring Christian Bale. It is the brainchild of producers David Johnson and Jesse Singer, conceived back in 2008 and ultimately funded in groundbreaking fashion via the crowdfunding medium of Kickstarter. Its protracted production cycle finally ended when London's famously bold Headlong theatre company decided to take it on, and after announcing the unlikely coup of international TV star Matt Smith of Dr. Who fame to star as Patrick Bateman, tickets quickly sold out at near record breaking pace.
Initial reaction to just the concept of this production has been one of puzzlement to some. The Ephemeric himself attended his showing with an individual confused as to how or why someone would adapt some kind of gruesome horror story into a musical.
But anyone familiar with the source material will tell you that a musical is the absolute perfect fit for this absurd satirical tale. At it's heart, American Psycho has never intended to be horror, or scary, it's a darkly comic satire, lampooning the ruthlessness and superficiality of the elite upper class, set against the backdrop of the Reaganite 1980s' notoriously decadent period of excess. American Psycho is about the heartless stereotype of capitalist society, where people are valued as nothing more than commodities, and everyone is so single-mindedly self-absorbed in their own wealth and prestige so as to be completely oblivious to even the most brazenly horrific of actions going on right under their nose. Patrick Bateman's methodical blood lust takes these ideas to the absurdest of extremes.
It's a story that is at its heart over-the-top, ridiculous, and funny. The musical version by necessity dials down the explicit gore of the movie adaption, and casts greater emphasis on the humour and absurdity of the material. Musicals are, but their very nature, over-the-top, exaggerated, and through Duncan Sheik's lineup of extremely catchy original songs, and some covers of 1980s classics, we cut straight to the core of American Psycho's message. Matt Smith with his vacant psychopath stare and surprisingly strong singing voice nails the starring role. Arguably it is the truest and most effective interpretation of American Psycho yet.
Following its success at the Almeida, there is little doubt that American Psycho will be a hit on the west end, with the intention being to move to Broadway shortly after. Anyone even vaguely in touch with the theatre scene would be unwise to miss out when it returns to the stage, to catch it in its early days. As for us, we await with great anticipation the release of the soundtrack.