Matt Smith - Critics Disagree On Not So Psychotic "American Psycho"

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Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho has been reinvented for the West End’s Almeida Theatre and critics are torn. Naturally, the main point of disagreement between theatre buffs is Matt Smith’s performance as axe murdering yuppie Patrick Bateman.

Matt Smith, Doctor Who 50th Celebration
Smith typically gets better reviews for his Doctor Who acting than his take on Patrick Bateman.

Few could imagine anyone other than Christian Bale in that role and yet, Smith pulled it off, at least according to The Guardian’s review. Michael Billington approves of the production’s “cool wit” and notes that in this stage version, “Goold's stylish production, Duncan Sheik's music and lyrics and Matt Smith's beautifully defined performance” come together to recreate a perfectly glossy façade, which hides the much darker reality. According to him, the musical’s constant switching between “insane violence and the debauched idyll” is what gives this show most of its power.

Rupert Goold
The lack of gore in Rupert Goold's interpretation makes it ring hollow for some critics.

Variety’s David Benedict is not convinced. According to him, the show is “all style, no substance”, which he concedes might be just the point. The review argues that the main problem is that the show never really presents Bateman’s murderous spree as real. While the original film presented his psychotic behavior as something very real and terrifying, the musical fails to reach the same level of horror, because it makes it clear that the violence is all a fantasy, Benedict argues. “That may come from the well-intentioned position of not wishing to revel in Bateman’s murderous violence as he slaughters prostitutes and rivals of both genders,” the review says. “Whatever the reason, it robs the show of darkness and, for the most part, any galvanizing sense of horror.”

The Telegraph had no sympathy for most of the production. While critic Charles Spencer praised Duncan Sheik’s “excellent” score, he pegged the rest of the show as an “empty mixture of ironic style and sudden moments of violence.” While Ed Devlin’s sleek designs are create a great landscape, the audience never experiences the violence of the movie or the book, which Spencer argues is the musical’s biggest failing. Like other critics, he is also less than impressed with Matt Smith’s portrayal of Bateman – he is described as “boringly blank, and never comes close to catching the characters mental disintegration.” Not the best review for Smith’s dramatic debut.

Susannah Fielding
Susannah Fielding receives some praise as part of a solid supporting cast.


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