American Pyscho – blog notes

On the night of St Jude, amidst scenes of panic at liverpool street station, I squeezed on to the last train back to Colchester.  Cancellations meant the train carriage was packed, 8 of us like sardines in seats for 6. A lecturer, a banker, a recent divorcee, a theatre bloke in a cap, two credit controllers…. and matt.

Matt’s 19, just started working as an auditor in the city. He’s rather drunk, celebrating his first pay check and ready to talk to anybody. He talks us through his attire – smart brogues recently pressed trousers and a bizarre bubble wrap tie. Tells us how he’s just bought himself a lordship (I do not lie)  and then produces his card.

As the business card scene in Roberto Aguirre Sacasa adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis 1991 novel was (as I later found out) faithfully played out I couldn’t help but recall my train encounter with Matt

Flash your smile
bear your teeth
they’ll never guess
what’s underneath

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Rupert Goulds musical version of American Psycho is as precise and clinical as bateman’s narrative. Highly stylized it feels more like an exuberant elongated pop video than a musical, owing more perhaps to Jerry Springer the Opera than that other bloodthirsty musical Sweeney Todd. Particularly through Lynn Page’s choreography it manages to be  camp and sophisticated, cheesy and slick. Above all its laced with a laugh out loud black humour which serves only to heighten the horror (the two first half killings are thrillingly staged).

At its heart is a performance by Matt Smith whose first appearance leaves you in no doubt of the narcism  which lies at the heart of his character. Cool, distant and precise Smith stand aloof from the cast, nothing but hollowness in his eyes as he stares across the audience.  This is his story – the story of mergers and acquisitions, of murders and executions. His Bateman is thrilling, beguiling and ultimately terrifyingly real.

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His character inhabits a world which is visually stunning. (We left the theatre joking the ensembles bodies and looks must have been auditioned almost as much as they’re acting skills). Here looks matter and nothing must be out of place. Es Devlin’s design points to a materialistic world obsessed with surfaces, one that the further in you go the more claustrophobic it gets. Over this  Finn Ross’  video and Jon Clarks lighting makes the whole set shimmer, frequently shifting mood in space from hockneyesque summer break to downtown New York, from appartment to restaurant, from backstreet to office. In a weird way the projections, in there transience, echo bateman’s own sense that he  simply is not there.

In fact the only character who seems to be there in any ordinary way is the Les Mis loving secretary, Jean. Sympathetically played by Cassandra Compton, her voice lends an aching beauty to a fractured, driving, electronic score. Hers is a pivotal role, providing a way in to a collection of characters who could feel distant and removed (though my train encounter might have indicated otherwise).

(A spotify play list, the key eighties tracks as selected by the cast of American Pyscho and the covers which appear in the show

Though the programme lists 15 original ‘tracks’ (plus six ‘covers’) the reality is Duncan Sheik’s music threads through the whole show. This is not a show where the action stops for a song, or we head down an emotional cul de sac for the sake of a good number. Instead the whole show proceeds at a breakneck speed, your recoiling one second, laughing the next. Your left disheveled, anxious, sickened and a little bit confused. Your also left exhilarated , excited and high.

Hours later I bought my first e book. As I turned the pages of American Pyscho on my Google Nexus, I couldnt help but think Bateman would have approved. He of course  would undoubtedly be an Apple enthusiast!

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