Review: American Psycho, Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

“The song’s so damn catchy, most people don’t realize it’s a rollicking ode to conformity and the importance of trends”

Bigger and bolder, and that’s just the pecs of leading man Benjamin Walker. It’s taken a little while for Rupert Goold’s American Psycho to make it over the pond after its run at the Almeida in the winter of 2013/4. But nothing if not tenacious, it now opens in a remounted and slightly retooled version at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, in a production that is indeed bigger and bolder, brasher too as befits the 80s incarnation of the city in which it now resides.

Book-writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has adapted Bret Easton Ellis’ novel of amorality into a tautly entertaining tale that both mocks the period (was that Donald Trump joke in the original?!) but also subversively questions the whole narrative, asking us how reliable Patrick Bateman is in relaying his tales of natural bedpartners investment banking and serial killing, or whether this uber-narcissist is something of a fantasist too. Continue reading “Review: American Psycho, Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre”

Review: Macbeth, St Peter’s Church Manchester

“Thou call’st thyself a hotter name than any is in hell”

One of the big ticket numbers in the Manchester International Festival this year has to be the return of Kenneth Branagh to Shakespeare, with him taking on the role of Macbeth in a production that was surrounded in secrecy and full of advisory warnings to the lucky few with tickets such as “don’t wear any dry-clean only outfits”, “you may not leave your seat once it has started” and possibly the toughest given its 2 hour interval-free running time, “no toilets in the venue”. That venue has now been revealed to be St Peter’s Church in Ancoats, a deconsecrated space used by the Hallé orchestra to rehearse in and whilst the toilets may be five minutes away at Murray’s Mill where tickets are collected from, any fears of emerging from the show drenched in mud and/or blood were left unfounded.

One can see straightaway though why the warnings have been made. The audience is placed in traverse either side of an earth-covered aisle and within moments of the start, a huge battle rages just inches from the audience with rain pouring, mud churning and sparks flying as swords clash. It’s an incredibly visceral start to a frequently breath-taking production – co-directed by Branagh and Rob Ashford – which successfully marries tradition with innovation, reinvigorating rather than reinventing Shakespeare’s timeless tale of the corrupting influence of power and ambition. Ashford’s eye for theatrical spectacle is combined with Branagh’s acute Shakespearean expertise and together, create something uniquely special. Continue reading “Review: Macbeth, St Peter’s Church Manchester”