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Review Round-Ups

Smith leads 'dangerously entertaining' American Psycho

''Doctor Who'''s Matt Smith has returned to the stage to star in a new musical adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis' cult novel. Did his Patrick Bateman charm the critics?

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Matt Smith as Patrick Bateman
© Francis Loney

Michael Coveney

As a piece of seemingly vacuous art work, Rupert Goold's production of this stunning high-concept musical with an uncompromising, insidious electronic score, is one of the most original in recent years: creepy, beautiful, reverberative, hollow, sleek and disturbing… Matt Smith… achieves what you might think of as the impossible: a fascinating shadow. Partly this is because Smith, physically both utterly controlled and zombie-like, is a chief exhibit in a museum of his own imagining… Katrina Lindsay's brilliant costumes and the deadening but ever witty pulse of Duncan Sheik's music and lyrics create an ironic aesthetic of chill, deliberate horror… The violence is the choreography, too, as are the sexual encounters… Smith heads up a high calibre ensemble moving like a machine... All the blood is tastefully done, spots of it seeping through a white sofa just as the globules drip from the movie credits.

Michael Billington
The Guardian

…how to capture this on stage? Goold's production does it with a cool wit that actually enhances the story's satire… Devlin's design is a slatted white box that acquires an hallucinogenic quality as the story unfolds. And the production has any number of swift transitions that underline the mixture of the savage and the sardonic… And throughout the production switches between insane violence and the debauched idyll, including a lovely evocation of summer in the Hamptons, occupied by Bateman's yuppie peers... Instead of stand-alone songs Sheik gives us music that reflects the world the characters inhabit… the stand-out performer is the excellent Matt Smith who… perfectly embodies Bateman's preoccupation with appearances. But he also has the capacity to suggest there is a strange emotional vacancy and spiritual hollowness within this solitary fantasist. And he is very well supported… this is a show that confirms the mythic power of Easton Ellis's story and leaves us all dangerously entertained.

Charles Spencer
Daily Telegraph

…You could sense the audience lapping up this empty mixture of ironic style and sudden moments of violence, and there is no doubt that Rupert Goold's production is smart and sharp… On stage, the piece has a sleek Eighties sheen, with hi-tech designs by Es Devlin that deftly conjure a range of locations… The violence is much less gory than in the book, the sex scenes less explicit … The score is often excellent… with '80s synths much to the fore in a neat mix of original songs that are witty, tuneful and tinged with melancholy... But while Smith's Dr Who struck me as tiresomely zany, here he seems boringly blank, and never comes close to catching the character's mental disintegration… His singing voice is flat and expressionless too… If I were you I'd give this modish show a miss.

Paul Taylor
The Independent

…His [Matt Smith's] compelling Patrick is more opaque and much less manic than Christian Bale in Mary Harron's excellent movie. He wears his beauty as a mask; the lack of colour in his singing voice becomes part of Bateman's blankness… But this witty, almost terminally knowing show tackles that difficulty with deadpan cheek… Though it calls itself "a musical thriller", the show is short on visceral tension. Patrick's sadistic spasms with axe and nail gun are stylised, choreographed turns that aren't going to land the Almeida Theatre with crippling laundry bills as the gore mostly virtual and drips down the digitalised designs… But the all-singing-and-dancing company perform the piece with terrific attack… It's a great joke that this deluded snob lauds Les Miserables for its "sheer unabashed emotionality" in a musical that is a caustic antidote to that style.

Henry Hitchings
Evening Standard

A musical version of Bret Easton Ellis' gruesome cult novel American Psycho sounds like the punchline of a sick joke. But this skilful interpretation is built around a superb performance by Matt Smith, who serves up an intriguing blend of nihilism, cold vanity and twisted charm… The score is a mixture of Eighties anthems… and original songs. For the latter, composer Duncan Sheik's idiom is thumping pop, all synth and percussion, and his lyrics exult in their own absurdity… Rupert Goold's staging is charismatic. Es Devlin's sets and Katrina Lindsay's costumes evoke the lifeless modishness of Eighties chic. And Smith is well supported… Although American Psycho is certainly bloody, where it needs to feel dangerous it sometimes seems a little too slick. Yet much of it is brilliant, and I would be surprised if this stylish shocker doesn't swiftly find its way into the West End.