Radio Times gave Matt Smith’s musical debut in American Psycho a big critical thumbs up last night – and most of the other critics agreed.
The Evening Standard judged that “Matt Smith serves up an intriguing blend of nihilism, cold vanity and twisted charm” in a four (our of five) star review.
Its critic Henry Hitchings wrote that the show “has preserved the spirit of the novel – the obsession with business cards, designer labels and the difficulty of getting a table at the best restaurants – while cutting some of its more mind-bendingly unpleasant scenes.
“The result is absorbing and psychologically plausible, as Smith switches between Bateman’s glitzy, tedious social life and moments of lurid hallucination.”
The Independent also praised Smith’s understated performance.
“His compelling Patrick is more opaque and much less manic than Christian Bale in Mary Harron's excellent movie,” wrote critic Paul Taylor. “He wears his beauty as a mask; the lack of colour in his singing voice becomes part of Bateman's blankness.”
Taylor also praised the ensemble – “the all-singing-and-dancing company perform the piece with terrific attack and the second half manages to take you into Patrick's panicking emptiness without a hint of sentimentality or sanitisation.”
Web-site The Arts Desk was similarly impressed with both Smith and the production as a whole: “In acting terms, Smith's performance is a marvel, proffering an increasingly anxious and self-loathing narcissist who, far from meeting his comeuppance, represents just the sort of unknowable charmer who may walk among us still, attracting both sexes along the way.”
The Mirror gave the show five stars out of five. “As the vain mass murderer of Manhattan – a role light years from Doctor Who – Smith kills it,” the paper wrote succinctly.
However there were dud notes sounded by some.
Variety’s David Benedict wrote that (director) “Rupert Goold and his design team certainly capture the high-veneer ’80s style that Bateman so worships” but added that “beneath the highly polished surface there’s little drama or, crucially, danger. In a serial-killer thriller, that’s not just a problem, it’s an indictment.”
The Daily Telegraph also didn’t like the show a great deal.
Its critic Charles Spencer called the source material “glib, heartless and pretentious” in his two-star ajudication.
Spencer wrote: “This show about cold, superficial people strikes me as being cold and superficial itself. I was also disappointed by Matt Smith’s psycho, though his admirers may be interested to learn that he makes his first dramatic appearance wearing only a mask and gleaming white underpants. Boy is he buff, a real hardbody – to use the vernacular of the novel.
“But while Smith’s Dr Who struck me as tiresomely zany, here he seems boringly blank, and never comes close to catching the characters mental disintegration, powerfully described in the novel and brilliantly caught by Bale in the film. His singing voice is flat and expressionless too.
“Like Huey Lewis said, sometimes it really is hip to be square and if I were you I’d give this modish show a miss.”
But these were rare negative soundings in what was, on the whole, a triumphant night for Matt Smith and Rupert Goold’s Almeida production.
American Psycho, from the Almeida, Headlong and Act 4 Entertainment, runs Until 1 February