American Psycho review at Gerald Schonfeld Theatre, New York – ‘dazzling and disturbing’
The Almeida – named London theatre of the year in The Stage awards this year – is proving its importance transatlantically too. This is its second Broadway transfer of the season, following King Charles III, an amplified (in every sense) US premiere of the musical version of Bret Easton Ellis’ cult novel American Psycho, first produced at the Islington venue in 2013 in tandem with Headlong.
Famously, it sold out the moment it was announced owing to the casting of Matt Smith, then still freshly out of Doctor Who. The Broadway run may prove a tougher sell: it’s in a much bigger theatre and though its buff new star Benjamin Walker certainly makes an impression, playing Patrick Bateman in various degrees of undress and mental collapse, he’s not got quite the same following.
Rupert Goold’s staging has gained in confidence and élan since London. Bustling, bristling and brilliant, it perfectly captures the queasy, restless energy of a New Yorker hurtling rapidly out of control. Ellis’ portrait of a late 1980s New York species of entitled, Harvard-educated investment banker facing existential emptiness is perfectly pitched as a glossy Broadway musical, and the preening and swagger of the characters is matched by that of the production.
It’s full of knowing self-irony, flecked with 80s references, from films and musicals – Les Mis gets a major mention – to the pop music of the time, with songs like New Order’s True Faith, Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight and The Human League’s Don’t You Want Me threaded through Duncan Sheik’s electro-pop score.
Goold’s high-sheen production is stunningly designed by Es Devlin, all in white, with plastic screens flying in to catch sprays of blood, and superbly propelled by Lynne Page’s dynamic disco-inspired choreography.