american psycho


"There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there." American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis

Everyone who enters the Almeida Theatre expecting to spend an evening with The Doctor will realise immediately that they've got it very, very wrong. There is no sign of the silly, frantic Time Lord here. A sharp, cold, young New Yorker instead takes his place. Albeit one with a face that's very familiar.

Sitting in the Almeida Theatre felt like sitting in a slightly posher version of my secondary school drama studio, and that's no bad thing. With a character as soulless as Patrick Bateman, intimacy is key. Within minutes Smith breaks the fourth wall, speaking directly to the lady sat in front of me: "Oh, you like my painting?" It's terrifying. There's something very unsettling about suddenly becoming involved in the performance. But it does mean that you perhaps examine the characters a little more closely. You think more about them, more about what it must be like to be them. And in the final scene, when Matt Smith was stood only a few feet away from me with a tear rolling down his cheek, I truly felt for Patrick. To be saddened by the life of a serial killer is an odd thing, but it happened. Yes, he is only a fictional character. And, yes, there is a debate as to whether this was all an extravagant story inside Bateman's head. But that doesn't matter; whether real or not, Patrick Bateman is a young man who struggles with the idea of himself on a daily basis. His life is meaningless. He simply is not there. And that's a tiny bit heartbreaking.

As for the score: when you find yourself subconsciously singing along to songs that you don't even really know the words to but have been milling around in your head all day, you know they're pretty damn good. Especially when it's been over a month since you saw the show. One could be forgiven for believing none of the songs were original, so perfect are they for the time period, if only they weren't written about a psychopathic serial killer. Killer Wolf, with its strong 80s dance beats, is a particular favourite. Sheik's score is more than deserving of a cast recording and, while it hasn't been confirmed, one can only have hope. And, while Smith's voice is not the strongest around, he certainly holds his own in a cast of very well qualified singers.

While it's highly likely that many of those who bought tickets for the show did so thanks to Mr Smith (myself included), the ensemble cast is what pulled the whole thing together. Hugh Skinner deserves a special mention, if only for his unending campness as Luis Carruthers, and a heartfelt performance from Cassandra Compton (Jean) almost makes you pity Bateman. A chilling performance from Smith as Bateman truly made the show.

A transfer to the West End is surely on the (business) cards. Now, I have to return some video tapes.

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