American Psycho is most likely one of the most controversial books of our generation. I admit I never got round to reading it (I’m on it at the moment though) but obviously I do know the story of Patrick Bateman, the rich Wall Street broker / psychotic serial killer. When I first heard about a musical adaption of the story I was curious but doubtful. However, first reports and a great casting (so it seemed) suggested this was a fresh and interesting take on the story.
First of all, yes there is murder in the show but no, it’s not a complete bloodbath. In fact the actual murders only take up a very small part of the stage adaption which focuses more on the character of Patrick Bateman and his relationships with the people around him. We see episodes of Patrick’s life and get to hear his thoughts on things that are happening in his life. There’s humour and anger, confusion and fury – a whole package of emotions that is thrown at the audience throughout the show.
And while I do think it is an interesting approach I ended up feeling something was missing. Now, it’s not that I enjoy a bloodbath but the pure horror and cruelty of Patrick Bateman’s murders are a key symbol in American Psycho. Without them the story is a dark satire without the needed edge.
My main problem with the show lies with Matt Smith’s Patrick Bateman. As much as I wanted to I wasn’t able to form any kind of emotional connection with the character. I didn’t like him, I didn’t sympathise with him, I didn’t loathe him – just nothing. That obviously made it next to impossible to be drawn into the story. If I don’t care for the main character, I simply don’t care what happens to him either.
Having said that, Matt Smith does a good job with the material he has been given. I admit I was expecting him to be more charismatic but judging from other reviews and word of mouth I’m definitely in the minority with this opinion. His singing isn’t great but it works for the part. He definitely shouldn’t start a second career as a dancer though.
The stand out performance in this show is Cassandra Compton’s Jean, Patrick Bateman’s secretary who is secretly in love with him. Cassandra plays the character with such a sweet vulnerability you can’t help but feel for her.
I really enjoyed Ben Aldridge as Paul Owen and Susannah Fielding as Evelyn Williams. And a special mention for Eugene McCoy who does a great job as Patrick Bateman’s friend David van Patten and to Holly James who always manages to catch my eye.
So, what do I make of American Psycho? I am still not completely sure I have to admit. I think it is a brave and interesting project. The 80s/Electro score is appealing and I really like the staging at the Almeida Theatre. However, I am missing something vital in this show: An emotional connection to the main character.
And one last thought: How did Patrick Bateman manage to get a fancy flat screen tv in the 80s??
American Psycho is running at the Almeida Theatre until February 1st 2014. The run is sold out but day seats are available. For more info go to: http://www.almeida.co.uk/event/americanpsycho