Interviews

23/10/2013

Reading American Psycho in light of the impending musical


American Psycho is a horrible novel. When you're not trawling through listless descriptions of clothing, a tirade of names and brands, you're listening to obnoxious repetitive conversations over expensive meals, interspersed with horrific graphic violence. It's truly horrible, and like most horrible literary experiences, I found it massively compelling.

I loved the fact it took a while to get to the gore, as the novel's reputation meant I was gagging for it to happen, then repulsed when it actually did. Towards the end, I was carefully choosing who I sat next to on the tube, and I read certain passages in such a rush, it was like the literary equivalent of peeking through your fingers at a film. Which makes it all the more fascinating as the subject of a musical.

Since I read it with this in mind, the references to musicals tend to jump out, making the constant relentless appearances of Les Miserables almost feel over done - but then that’s exactly the joke/point. Bateman is basically indifferent to LM (aside a preference to the British Cast version on Compact Disc, which feels like any number of his arbitrary clothing etiquettes) and it’s worth noting too that Bateman regularly attends musicals, namely new British ones just opening, but offers no comment on these or even their titles. The reason this indifference stands out is because there are so many passionate references to music, particularly whole chapters of gushing defences of MOR, ironically mainstream-yet-not-obvious artists (namely the holy trinity of Genesis, Whitney Houston and Huey Lewis and The News). I’m guessing the musical will skip the specific music of the time and simply be influenced by it, for copyright reasons if not artistic ones. In my head, I want it to be like Sondheim’s Assassins, the nearest thing I can think of that takes a gory subject matter, and turns it into something all singing and all dancing. Of course, that has the Fairground device, so maybe APTM will employ something similar - the Patty Winters show seems as good a vehicle as any, though probably veers too close to turning into Jerry Springer The Opera.

Before my specific hopes and dreams about the production, a quick note on Bateman’s sexuality. If my undergraduate hands had got hold of this, I would be gagging to make something of his latent homosexuality, and would probably push forward the psycho-sexual diagnosis that his repression may even be a driving factor in his pathology. (He dresses well! He has a skin care regime! He attends musicals! Total closet case…) However, I think this path is massively misguided. Much like the fellow machiavellian Iago, I think his inherent evil needs no reductive explanation. As a character, as a metaphor, as an all singing musical anti-hero, I think any hints towards a sexual justification of this kind will be at the detriment of American Psycho’s own fucked up logic. And with all that in mind…

Some polite requests: (What I would like to see from American Psycho The Musical, should I be able to get hold of tickets.)

1. A little Les Mis parody - to this end, I really want to see Les Mis, just to get it. In fact, I want to watch the film version of both now to get up to speed.

2. Blood. Lots and lots of blood. Absurd amounts of blood. So much blood it rains onstage and the front row will have to be given disposable rain macs.

3. Comedy. It has GOT to be funny. On several levels. There are a few opportunities for slapstick (i.e. the axe scene) but the funniest bits of AP are not explained. And are confusing. Like the constant mis-recognising of people. Which is never explained.

4. Light after dark, or dark as light. I don’t know how this will work. One of the great juxtapositions of the novel is that after an extended bout of violence, you’re given a respite with some diy music criticism. With a musical, will it be shockingly grim, followed by a light musical number to recover? Or will the shockingly grim moments be housed within a musical number? Both would work, but too much either way probably wouldn’t work. Though a relentless onslaught of a murderous yuppie singing is not unappealing.

5. No Doctor Who references. If any reference, even the slightest hint, nudge or wink is made to Matt Smith’s previous role, I will want to stab someone myself.

Those are the biggies. A U2 concert moment would be amazing, as would a segue way into Like A Prayer, just the throw away refrain thrown in for no other reason than being self referential. I want this musical to be good so badly, since the loss of Chicago, we need some more murderous musicals in the West End.