Sunday, 5 January 2014

American Psycho Review

Judge not, lest ye be judged.  Or something.

I am a Whovian.  I am unashamed.  In fact, I wrote a whole blog about my love of Doctor Who just a couple of months ago.  I also have an enormous crush on Matt Smith.  And as the cherry on this particular Emma-cake, I am also a huge lover of musical theatre.

So, when it was announced that Matt Smith was to star in a musical adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis' American Psycho once his time in the TARDIS was over, it was less a question of shall I go, more "WHEN CAN I GO?!"

And so, on Friday 3rd January, I found myself sitting in the tiny Almeida Theatre, desperately double and triple checking that I had switched off my phone.  Nobody needs to hear the Doctor Who theme tune going off at a pivotal moment, least of all Matt Smith, I'm sure...

The show starts with a bang.  There's no soft dimming of the lights whilst a pretty overture plays - it's a loud bang, sudden darkness and clever use of lighting and stage design to make you feel almost as though you're in a computer game - nothing feels real.  Whilst cast members are dotted around the audience to sing the show's opening number - Clean - Matt Smith appears on stage, rising through a trap door wearing nothing but a very small pair of white Y-fronts and an eye mask.  Note to self:  You're asthmatic.  You must remember to breathe when confronted with things like this...

Can  I make HIM my New Year's Resolution?!

If you're wondering how the hell anyone could make an enjoyable musical out of a story about a murderous psychopath, then you're not alone.  I warned my friend Lizzie (who not only came to see the show with me, but spent over four hours desperately trying to buy tickets online before she was finally successful) that it might be "gory, possibly disturbing and a bit weird."

Words I didn't use were "funny," "slick" and "massively entertaining, yet rather thought-provoking."  The truth is, I should have used those words, because that's exactly what American Psycho is.

"Funny?" I hear you cry (I should probably see someone about those voices in my head).  Well, yes.  The fact is, Ellis' original novel was a satirical tirade against consumerism and society's shallow obsession with things like looks and social standing.  So it's no surprise that this musical production takes those themes and cleverly weaves scenes and songs around them, to create humour amongst the blood and gore.  From the frankly hilarious ode to the humble business card (Patrick Bateman is not impressed to meet a rival whose card is better than his), to the deliberately witty portrayal of Luis and his unrequited love for Patrick, there are plenty of giggles to be had.  Duncan Sheik's clever lyrics manage to both mock the characters and their shallow lives, whilst somehow making them more real and understandable.  The girls may be somewhat vacuous, but there is "nothing ironic about (their) love of Manolo Blahnik."

The score is relentlessly catchy - all 80's electro-pop, with classic songs from the era thrown in amongst original numbers.  If you're struggling to picture it, think of a typical 80's music video with a serial killer randomly placed amongst the shoulder pads and you probably won't be far off the mark.  The era has been perfectly captured through the music, as well as the costumes and the set.  Early on in the show, Matt's Patrick Bateman lovingly points out his top of the range Sony Walkman, which gets a big laugh from the modern audience, with their smart phones and mp3 players sitting snugly in their bags.

The story is excellently told through Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's writing; the lines are sharp and witty.  The cast are clearly enjoying themselves on stage and why wouldn't they be?  The show is so cleverly put together that frankly, I wanted to join in.  Don't listen to Lizzie when she tells you I only wanted to be involved in the sex scenes...

Which brings me to Matt.  Aherm. 

I am well known for being a Matt fan girl.  I'm not even going to deny it.

This is the point at which I want to basically just go "OHMYGODHEISTHEBESTACTORINTHEWORLDANDHEISSOGORGEOUSANDHECANSING."  Instead, I will attempt to be slightly controlled...

Matt Smith is an incredible actor.  I knew this already (not only from Doctor Who) but this show proved it beyond all reasonable doubt.  Let's think about the character Matt was playing:  Patrick Bateman is a delusional, immoral, shallow individual who harbours murderous fantasies about his family and friends.  It's hard to like someone like that, at least at face value.  And yet Matt presented us with a version of Bateman that it was impossible not to feel something for.  He made him human.  Here was not simply a psychopath, but a rather frightened and deeply troubled individual who, for all his swagger and charm, had very little real confidence in himself and found that the world in which he lived left him feeling empty and anxious.  It was impossible not to harbour a little sympathy for him.  

Matt's portrayal was in a class of its own.  There were several layers to his Patrick Bateman - not an easy task, when the character seems, on the face of it, incredibly shallow.  Not only was Matt cold and calculating when he needed to be, but his delivery of the wittier lines was spot on; he could make me laugh one second and have me wanting to hide behind a cushion the next (maybe that's the Whovian in me).  

I may be biased, but this fan girl was thrilled with what she saw.  But in truth, the whole show was excellent.  I can't praise it highly enough.  It's a testament to it that my analysis at the end was: "I'd love to see that again; even if Matt wasn't in it."

So if - WHEN - this fabulous visual feast transfers to the West End, I implore you to buy a ticket.  Otherwise I'll have to cut you into tiny pieces and hide you in a bath tub...

Oh and to answer the question you may have in your heads...  No, I didn't get to meet Matt Smith.  I know.  I was gutted too.  But he did wave at me and smile and it was enough to make my day.  Thanks Matt.  :-)

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