When thinking of subjects that would translate well into musical theatre, Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho is probably not one of the first works that springs to mind. However, directing a ‘new musical thriller’ adaptation of one of the most controversial novels of the 20th Century is precisely what Rupert Goold has just managed to pull off at the Almeida Theatre.
Even before Matt Smith was announced as Patrick Bateman, tickets were hard to come by; the Headlong/Act 4 Entertainment co-production was sold out well in advance of its short run at the small Islington space, and hopeful attendees were queuing daily from 6:00am in the hope of securing a day ticket. American Psycho has undoubtedly been one of the hottest tickets of the winter season, and one of the best dressed, thanks to production sponsor MrPorter.com.
Although visual nods are made to Mary Harron’s film adaptation, American Psycho the musical is more closely based on the novel, and time is taken to include a fantastic scene in which Bateman encounters Tom Cruise in an elevator, as they both live in the same apartment building. Despite being considerably longer than the film, clocking in at a weighty two hours and forty minutes with interval, Psycho works surprisingly well as a piece of musical theatre.
…Matt Smith’s voice suited the 80s-style songs…
Duncan Sheik of Spring Awakening fame has written a superbly 80s electronic score that was interspersed at odd moments with well-known tracks like ‘Hip to be Square’. Sheik’s satirical lyrics captured the superficial excesses of Patrick Bateman’s world and the synth-pop style helped the music to feel like an organic part of the piece instead of being big show numbers shoe-horned in at inappropriate moments just to make it a musical. While by no means a brilliant singer, Matt Smith’s voice suited the 80s-style songs and he wore Patrick Bateman’s sharp suit and red suspenders with ease.
Es Devlin’s clean, minimalist set allowed for quick transitions between Bateman’s apartment, office, and other locations like The Tunnel. This was particularly effective in emphasising the jarring contrast between the darkness of a back alley murder and a group of neon-clad Wall Street bankers ogling the instructor at their lunchtime exercise class.
This was a clever, unnerving and dark production, and a slick vision of the cult novel. Sadly the Almeida production has now closed, but I don’t doubt that Patrick Bateman will back on stage somewhere in the near future. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to return some videotapes.