Are You Watching..? – Bloodline (Netflix)

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Towards the end of last year, one of my friends recommended Bloodline to me and I’m very pleased he did. One of Netflix’s original dramas in 2015, it was soon a firm favourite of mine, due to its intelligent and engaging writing, multi-layered characters and the fact that it keeps you guessing from beginning to end. One thing is certain though – when you watch Bloodline, you need to be paying attention.

After a shorter wait than those who tuned in twelve months ago, I’ll finally get to see what the next chapter has in store for the Rayburn family when series 2 arrives on Netflix later this week. Therefore, now is the ideal time to catch up on one of the strongest dramas on television at the moment.

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The Rayburn family

Created by Glenn Kesler, Todd A. Kesler and Daniel Zelman, the trio behind one of my all-time favourite series Damages (more on that here – if you didn’t watch it, then add that to your list too!), Bloodline is all about the Rayburn family headed by Robert and Sally, who have run a small hotel on the beach in the Florida Keys for 45 years. We meet them as the whole family is coming together to celebrate this 45th anniversary, including eldest son Danny (Ben Mendelsohn), the clear black sheep of the clan. Over the course of the thirteen episodes, we watch how all of their lives are affected by his return and see how, despite the setting, not everything in their lives is paradise.

One of the aspects I love most about this series is its structure. Following the mould set by its creators’ previous success Damages, glimpses in to the future are used to tease the audience about the path that lies ahead for this family. By the end of the first episode, it’s clear that the not too distant future does not look rosy for the Rayburns. The big questions though remain unanswered – what happens along the way to get them to that point and who in the family knows the truth? It is an incredibly effective way of hooking the audience early. You know more than the characters do and are intrigued by the mysteries that lie ahead.

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Kyle Chandler & Ben Mendelsohn

There are also glimpses in to the past along the way, which only add more questions – who is Sarah? What happened to her and how has that impacted on the family? A series that keeps you guessing and reveals its secrets at its own pace is always one that will keep me engaged and enthralled.

One of Bloodline’s other great strengths is the quality of its cast. Mendelsohn is superb as Danny; he is a character you change your view on many times and his performance is always one from which you are never sure what to expect. However the rest of the cast is great too. Kyle Chandler plays his brother Detective John Rayburn brilliantly. He has clearly been forced to take the elder sibling role and you are conscious of the pressure of expectation he feels, whether from a responsibility to his siblings or his parents. Norbert Leo Butz and Linda Cardellini are very good as the remaining siblings, each with their own complicated lives, in to which the reappearance of Danny is something they could do without.

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Ben Mendelsohn & Sissy Spacek

Heading the family is the brilliant pairing of Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek and you sense each has their own skeletons in the closet. As a unit they are fantastic and because they are all equally capable of holding the screen and the audience’s interest, it allows the writers to weave in strands for each of them, which gradually come to link in to the overarching questions you have by the end of the series opener.

I’d also be surprised if you don’t recognise an aspect of your own family’s dynamic when watching the Rayburns, whether it’s the mother with her favourite can do no wrong child, to the daughter always trying to make her father proud, to the brother who feels he has to be a stable force for the rest of his family on top of his own problems.

I admit, especially early on, there is quite a lot of talk in Bloodline and perhaps some may feel there are too many dialogue-heavy scenes and not enough actually happening. However, the writing wonderfully builds up events, as the jigsaw pieces start to slot in to place. Also, it’s certainly lovely to watch a show set in such a paradise – clear water, sunshine, white sandy beaches; the ideal backdrop for a story containing buried family secrets!

Series 2 of Bloodline arrives on Netflix on Friday 27th May 2016, just in time for the weekend. If you are in need of a new series and enjoy intelligent dramas, that are well written and strongly acted, then I highly recommend you give it a try!

The first series of Bloodline is available to watch now on Netflix. Series 2 is available from 27th May 2016. For a taster, here’s the trailer to the first series.

 

Theatre Reflections – A final farewell to the RSC’s King & Country at BAM (New York)

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It’s taken me a couple of weeks to write this reflection on the final King and Country cycle. Previously I have reviewed all of the individual plays since they began with Richard II in 2013, as well as reflecting on the cycle at the Barbican this January. However, as my recent New York trip was largely scheduled around seeing the last dates of these Histories, it seemed fitting to look back one last time and also comment on the differences, both in my experience and in the performances, when seeing them during the New York run.

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BAM Harvey Theatre (Photo by: E. Kaufman Harvey)

I find it thrilling that despite so many performances under their belts (the final King and Country tally was 505), the company was still trying new things and for anyone who’s sen them a few times it’s a wonderful added extra. It’s also fascinating to experience the plays with an audience who have much less opportunity to see live Shakespeare than we do here in the UK and to see first hand how this affects their reactions to the material.

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Jasper Britton & David Tennant in Richard II (Photo by: Keith Pattison)

From my time at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s (BAM) Harvey Theatre, I’d safely say that the largely American audiences loved these productions and having the RSC come to them. In fact there was a buzz that I didn’t feel at the Barbican or to some extent even at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. This is perhaps largely due to the RSC in New York being more of an event, seeing as they haven’t been regularly and the audiences were excited to see this famous theatre company bringing Shakespeare overseas. Thinking about it logically, these were the perfect plays to succeed there. The more traditional rather than modern settings and the English history (albeit Shakespeare’s version) seemed, from the people we spoke with, to be exactly what they imagined the Royal Shakespeare Company to be doing.

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Antony Sher, Sam Marks & Alex Hassell in Henry IV (Photo by: Richard Termine)

BAM was an ideal theatre for the plays too. Built in 1904 as the Majestic Theatre, the BAM Harvey Theatre’s auditorium is weathered and has a old-age feel; paint flaked walls and ceilings really added to the sense that a little bit of English history had come back to life in a venue of the past. I also really liked the rake of BAM, with a great view from every seat I had (it’s a bit like the Trafalgar Studios rake for those that know it). This again meant a slightly different viewing experience than I’d had in Stratford-Upon-Avon or London.

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Matthew Needham (centre), Antony Byrne (left), Sean Chapman (right) in Henry IV (Photo by: Richard Termine)

The plays themselves were just a strong as they had been and as far as Henry IV is concerned, this was my favourite time watching it (having seen it once in Stratford in 2014 and then once during each of the two Barbican runs). At a book event earlier in the week, Antony Sher had commented how he felt the US audiences were listening and reacting better to the plays and on experiencing them for myself, I have to agree with him. Lines which I’ve not heard get a reaction before in all four of the plays (but especially Henry IV) found one at BAM. I heard quite a few people there saying how they had read the plays before coming and perhaps we are so used to Shakespeare in the UK that we aren’t as focussed as an audience who has less chance to see them live. In turn, this clearly had an effect on the performances, especially Mr Sher, who seemed happier and more at ease at BAM. Perhaps coming to the end of the run played a part, but you could see that he was enjoying and feeding off the audience reactions.

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Alex Hassell in Henry V (Photo by: Stephanie Berger)

I’m sure it’s no surprise to regular readers that I saw Richard II the most since 2013. I’d been at the first preview in October 2013 and I loved the idea of seeing the very last performance, especially as in my view, this is a production which has only gone from strength to strength over time. It was in Richard II where I picked up on little changes, the most obvious being in my favourite scene – Flint Castle. Having seen David Tennant play the scene with both Oliver Rix and now Sam Marks (as well as Oli and Sam together during the understudy performance), it was wonderful that they were still experimenting even at the end of the run. I saw Richard II twice at BAM and both times, instead of dodging the crown when Richard moves to place it on his head, Sam Marks stayed still and Richard II did indeed crown Aumerle. Once Tennant then removed it with a sigh (it’s Richard’s burden, not his cousin’s) and the second time Marks removed it and with sadness gave it back to Richard. It wasn’t a big change, but it was something subtle and lovely to see played in a slightly different way after all this time.

All the company were on fine form in New York and special mention to Evelyn Miller going on in place of Jennifer Kirby for the final Henry IV Part 2 and Henry V. They should all be hugely proud of the King and Country cycle and it was very special to be at the final Henry V to see the 505th and final performance. I’m sure after such a welcome, it won’t be long before the RSC is back in New York and you never know, I may just have to tag along too!

You can purchase the RSC’s King and Country plays on DVD from all the usual stockists. As the DVDs are region free, it’s worth considering buying them from US Amazon where the 4 play set is only $40!

Theatre Review – Travels With My Aunt (Minerva Theatre, Chichester)

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During my weekend trip to Chichester, as well as An Enemy of the People (running until Saturday 21st May) I also had time to see a matinee of Travels With My Aunt. With a book by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman and music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, this is a new musical based on the 1969 novel by Graham Greene.

It’s a simple (and rather ridiculous) story in which Henry Pulling (Steven Pacey) is perfectly happy with his quiet, uneventful retirement. He has his garden and his dahlias and that’s quite enough for him. However, his life soon takes an unexpected and more adventurous turn when, at his mother’s funeral, he meets his Aunt Augusta. Before he knows it, he is fleeing police and on a flight to Paris where his travels with his aunt are only just beginning.

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Patricia Hodge as Aunt Augusta

This isn’t the greatest, slickest musical by a long way. It was however quite a pleasant way to spend an afternoon in Chichester and certainly seemed to go down very well with its target audience.

There were aspects of the story that didn’t work for me and which I think highlight the era in which the original book was written, dating the piece as a whole. There is a lot of cliché and cheesy stereotypes on display, such as the under-developed character of Wordsworth, Augusta’s black lover from Sierra Leone. Also Henry’s growing closeness to Tooley (Haley Flaherty), a young hippie they meet along the way, didn’t appeal to me at all and unfortunately I never saw this as romantic, but rather just a bit creepy. It’s nicely played by both actors, but I couldn’t take it seriously. Also, although the songs do contain some rather witty lines throughout, none of them are particularly memorable.

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Haley Flaherty, Steven Pacey, Hugh Maynard & Patricia Hodge (Photo by: Tristram Kenton)

Having said all of that, I did enjoy this production for what it was – a quaint, old-fashioned story, which tries to make its audience realise that you are never too old to do anything. The set design has been well thought through by Colin Falconer, who manages to pack a lot in to the small space he has in the Minerva. The use of the centre box as bar, waiting room and entry to Augusta’s flat all worked well and minimal props do a great job of transporting us to each new location on the journey.

The strongest aspects of the show are the performances of Steven Pacey as Henry and Patricia Hodge as Augusta. Pacey plays Henry’s strait-laced English gentleman very well and you do quite like him, finding yourself amused by his exasperation at what he sees as his Aunt’s recklessness. Hodge is wonderful as Augusta. In her smart, colourful, stylish outfits she is a lot of fun and I couldn’t help thinking I wouldn’t mind being that free-spirited in my old age! You admire her passion for life, although imagine if you were Henry, she’d drive you crazy too. They two do have a lovely chemistry that really works here and I found that scenes which focus on them were much stronger than some of the others and it is them who keep you engaged.

So, overall, I wouldn’t say you should make a special trip to Chichester just to see this production. It is however perfectly pleasant for anyone in the area looking to escape from the real world for a couple of hours.

Travels With my Aunt continues its run at the Minerva Theatre in Chichester until 4th June 2016. Running-time is 2 hours 30 minutes (including one interval). For more information visit the website.

 

 

Theatre Review – An Enemy of the People (Festival Theatre, Chichester)

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It’s been a few years since I last made it to Chichester’s theatre festival and so it was lovely to go for my first visit of the year this weekend. With only one week left to run, you still have time to see An Enemy of the People, currently playing in the larger Festival Theatre. Having never seen the play on stage before, I was interested in adding another Ibsen to my list.

Set in a quiet Nordic spa town, the story revolves around Dr. Stockmann, the Bath’s medical officer and pillar of the community. Taking pride in doing his job properly, when his tests of the water and soil prove his suspicions – that the baths are a health risk, he is pleased to have made such a discovery, particularly as this proves him right and his brother the Mayor wrong with regards to how the Baths were constructed. With the help of the local liberal newspaper, whose editor Hovstad is more than a little happy about the idea of bringing upset to the wealthy owners and investors of the Baths, Stockmann is determined to bring his findings and the risks the Baths pose, to the public’s attention. He sees himself of the hero of the people by doing so.

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Hugh Bonneville & cast (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

However, Ibsen’s play highlights how quickly opinions can change and the risk of speaking out. Indeed, a play concerning the suppression of corruption by those with power and influence, the instinct for self-interest and the idea of whistle-blowing are all incredibly current issues in the world we live in.

The play itself involves a great deal of talk and could have been quite dry to watch. However, Christopher Hampton’s translation and the production itself were very engaging, with some strong performances. I was also surprised how much humour was within the show, much more than any other Ibsen I’ve seen (I go to his plays aware that they are never going to be the happiest!). As this is the only production of this play that I’ve seen, whether this was down to the original text or Hampton’s translation I’m not sure, but it was a very welcome element, which was no doubt enhanced by the actors themselves.

Howard Davies’s production is also perfectly suited to the Festival Theatre’s space, particularly for the later public meeting scene. The decision to stage this within the auditorium, with the majority of the cast within the audience and only the speakers on the stage, added to the atmosphere. The shouts and sense of a whole community turning on one man felt far more authentic than had we the audience simply been observers.

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Adam James (Photo by: Manuel Harlan)

It was also fascinating in that the motivations of Stockmann did not always appear to be clear-cut. He did have a desire to take the moral ground and expose the truths others were trying to suppress. However, when you see the animosity and deep-rooted rivalry between him and his brother, the Mayor and the person leading the opposition to his cause, his motivations could be seen in a different light. Is an element of his motivation to highlight that he was right and his brother wrong? His cause does pose a risk of personal loss to his whole family (his father-in-law’s tannery being a large part of the pollution problem, but also the source of future financial stability for his wife and children), which makes such petty rivalries unlikely to be his sole reason. However it was still an interesting aspect of the production that, for me, added to the complexity of Stockmann’s character.

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Jonathan Cullen, William Gaminara & Hugh Bonneville (Photo by: Manuel Harlan)

Now more famous for playing a wealthy aristocrat, it was satisfying to see Hugh Bonneville in a different role. He is very good as Stockmann (his first stage role since 2004). He is the man you see as the champion of the truth, who begins to lose his credibility (and indeed his good name) in his community when his public pleas become an attack on the rights of the unintelligent majority and the intellectually weak. He decision to make such declarations showed his naivety – surely anyone would see that insulting the public’s intelligence and threatening the source of the whole town’s income (the tourism from the Baths) would not be the root to success?

Surrounding Bonneville’s central performance, Adam James (a favourite actor of mine since 2010’s Blood & Gifts) is on fine form as usual as the side-changing newspaper editor, who is swift to drop his support of Stockmann the moment he realizes what he has to lose. William Gaminara is wonderful as Stockmann’s pompous brother, who as Mayor, is smart enough to know how to appeal to the community’s sense of self-interest in order to keep his failings hidden and Alice Orr-Ewing’s portrayal of Stockmann’s daughter is lovely, whose outspoken and independent spirit shines through, as does her admiration of her father’s cause.

It’s unexpected humour and ability to bring Ibsen’s ideas to a modern audience in such an engaging and relevant way meant that this was an enjoyable evening at the theatre for me, but if you were planning to see it, you only have until Saturday to buy a ticket!

An Enemy of the People continues at the Festival Theatre in Chichester until Saturday 21st May 2016. Running-time is 2 hours 30 minutes (including one interval). For more information visit the website.

Theatre Review – Blackbird (Broadway, New York)

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Another play I managed to have time to see during my New York theatre holiday was the Broadway premiere of David Harrower’s play. I knew very little beforehand, but was an admirer of the work of both actors.

Set in a break room of a dreary office building, Una (Michelle Williams) has arrived at the workplace of Ray (Jeff Daniels) having not seen him for 15 years. However, this is not an ordinary meeting and it very quickly becomes clear that Ray was a former neighbour and that the two of them had a sexual relationship. What makes this more shocking is that, at the time, Ray was 40 and Una was only 12 years old. After being released from prison, Ray has moved away, changed his name and started again (the offence having been committed before the sex offenders register existed). Tonight however, Una is determined to make him face her and the consequences of his actions.

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Over the course of 80 minutes, we watch as these two damaged people unleash their pent up emotions and the more they do, the more the lines blur regarding how they each view what happened and how they now feel about one another. It proves to be a thought-provoking experience for the audience.

The two actors are very good indeed. Michelle Williams, dressed in a floaty dress, designed to make her seem more childlike, plays Una’s jumble of emotions wonderfully. She is a complex character, whose childhood has understandably affected her whole life. She is like an unstable chemical element, which you expect to explode at any moment. In certain moments she speaks of how many men she’s slept with and yet in others she regresses to more childlike behavior, suggesting someone still on some emotional level trapped in the past. She wants to be in control of this meeting, stalking Ray around the room and seemingly enjoying just how scared he is of her and her unexpected reappearance in his life.

In a role he played during its original Off-Broadway run in 2007, Jeff Daniels takes his lead from her, as Ray struggles to try and explain the past from his perspective. Although I felt myself focusing on Williams’s performance, Daniels convincingly plays a man haunted by Una, who despite his larger frame at times appears small and weak in her presence. It’s not an easy role and it’s a testament to the actor that you sometimes forget that he is a criminal.

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I’ve seen some comments as to whether this was love or abuse. I think this is too simplistic a question. For me, it is perhaps more unclear for Ray and Una from their perspectives than from mine as an audience member. There is clearly a connection between the two of them and they are still drawn to each other, which seems to excite and terrify them in equal measure. However I never questioned the inappropriateness of Ray’s actions. Una was a child, not even a teenager, but a pre-pubescent 12 year-old girl.

He spends a lot of time trying to make clear that he isn’t one of those men, that he doesn’t have those urges towards children and that he didn’t set out to have sex with a child. You are never truly sure if he really believes this or if it’s what he’s been telling himself ever since to move on. This uncertainty about Ray is brought home even more by the play’s powerfully unresolved conclusion, which in one moment made me shudder.

To add to the emotional complexity, as the play continues, you realise that Una’s anger stems more from a feeling of abandonment by Ray than from what he actually did. Ultimately the tragedy for these two people is had they met later in life, things could have been very different.

The strongest section of the play is when Una is reliving their last night together and its aftermath for her. The stage lighting changes gradually growing dimmer as she delves further in to those past events. So powerful is Williams here that you feel as if you are reliving it with her. You can see it in your mind’s eye and feel jolted when brought back to the present. It was hugely effective and the most powerful part of the production.

Certain aspects didn’t work for me. I grew to find the stilted, clipped dialogue of the early part of the play frustrating. Also the throwing around of rubbish by these two people at that point in proceedings didn’t, for me, achieve anything. All the verbal and sometimes physical sparring and outpouring of emotions beforehand were much more interesting.

Blackbird is not a comfortable play to watch by any means and although it didn’t impress me as much as other productions I saw in New York, it was certainly a powerful, thought-provoking and at times disturbing experience.

Blackbird continues its run at the Belasco Theatre (111. West 44th St.) until 11th June 2016. Running-time: 80 minutes approx. (no interval). $32 rush tickets are available each morning at the box office. For more information visit the website.

 

Theatre Review – The Color Purple starring Cynthia Erivo (Broadway, New York)

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The Menier Chocolate Factory’s revival of The Color Purple was one of those productions that I tried but failed to see in London in 2013. Thankfully, my recent New York trip provided me with an opportunity to see it during its hugely successful Broadway transfer.

As someone who hasn’t read Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (a literary crime I know) or seen the 1985 film version, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this musical. Set in Georgia, beginning in 1909, the story centres on Celie, who we see grow up from a young girl abused by her step-father (resulting in two children who he then takes from her), passed off to a cruel older husband who treats her like his slave, to a strong, independent and confident business woman. Despite everything she endures, Celie remains strong; a woman you deeply admire and care about.

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The phenomenal Cynthia Erivo as Celie

A strong actress was certainly needed to play her and to lead this production. Luckily for me, British actress Cynthia Erivo has travelled with the show to New York and she is absolutely stunning as Celie. An unknown actress to American audiences on her arrival there, she is certainly a force of the Broadway theatre stage now and all the praise she has received for the role over the years is justified.

Erivo conveys every emotion Celie experiences over her life perfectly and by the time she hits the final, powerful notes of her solo song I’m Here, the rapturous reception she received from the audience felt as though it had been building for the last couple of hours! It’s simply one of the finest stage performances I’ve seen and Erivo clearly gives it her heart and soul.

The production also contains some other fantastic performances. Danielle Brooks (from Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black) plays Sophia with so much humour and a fire that had my audience cheering her along all the way, with every “Hell no” she uttered. The wife of Harpo, son of Celie’s husband, she is the opposite of the young Celie; she will not be treated as a slave by her husband and is without a doubt the boss of their relationship. Kyle Scatliffe (who impressed me in 2013 in the Young Vic’s The Scottsboro Boys), is wonderful too as Harpo and despite their arguments, the bond of affection they share is never in doubt.

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Jennifer Hudson was still in the cast playing Shug Avery during my visit and she did a fantastic job. Shug is a fascinating character; one who enters as Celie’s husband’s former lover. You don’t expect to like her and yet you do and the love between her and Celie grows. Ultimately it is Shug who helps Celie to forge a new life for herself, free from anyone else’s control. Heather Headley will, I’m sure, continue to make the role shine.

Although not every song is a memorable one, there were some musical numbers within this production that I thoroughly enjoyed and the soundtrack is worth the investment for I’m Here alone. Seeing The Color Purple in America also certainly added to my enjoyment and experience, with the audience’s responses and reactions far greater than I imagine they were in London. Their love of this production was something you could feel in the auditorium.

Powerful, moving, funny and inspiring, The Color Purple was a wonderful night at the theatre and is something not to be missed, particularly for Erivo’s performance, which will be one of the greats to remember.

The Color Purple continues its run at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre (242 West 45th St.) and is currently booking until 2nd October 2016. $35 rush tickets are available in the morning at the theatre each day. Running-time is 2 hours 20 minutes (including one interval). For more information, visit its website.

Theatre Review – American Psycho (Broadway, New York)

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Another production I was keen to see during my trip to New York was the Broadway transfer of the Almeida Theatre’s musical version of American Psycho. I’d thoroughly enjoyed the show when it opened in London in 2013, seeing it a few times during its brief run. Having purchased the cast recording prior to my holiday, that production felt fresh in my memory on arriving at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.

It was an entertaining afternoon and also fascinating to see the changes that had been made to the show since its original run. Some of these changes I very much welcomed, while I missed other elements that have been changed.

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Benjamin Walker as Patrick Bateman

The most noticeable difference from the start was the change to the arrangement of some of Duncan Sheik’s songs, to the extent that they sounded quite different from when I’d last heard them, which threw me a little. Such changes relate to Opening, Selling Out, Killing Time and Not A Common Man. On an initial viewing my immediate view is that I prefer the original versions, but perhaps if I’d had a second opportunity to see the show maybe they would have grown on me. However my least favourite song of the production has also disappeared. I was not a fan of “Oh Sri Lanka” during Patrick Bateman’s birthday and felt it jarred the flow of the story. Its removal, with instead a great moment with Bateman “cutting” his birthday cake is funny and in-keeping with the show.

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The staging and style of Rupert Goold’s American Psycho were two of the aspects I’d loved best and these continue to impress on Broadway. The show looks great, with Es Devlin’s set able to have a little more space than the Almeida could provide, which enables it to open out even more, especially in the second half, with the whole side of the stage opening in to separate doorways, through which various cast dressed in white and covered in blood appear as Bateman’s killing spree ratchets up. Whether a decision of the cast or creative team, the Broadway cast also spend much longer in their underwear! Indeed, Benjamin Walker’s Bateman spends all of the opening shirtless, while visiting the video store on route to work etc. (with a quick detour in to the aisles, to spray the audience with money from spray guns) and a good portion of the second half in just his underwear.

The depiction of the violence of Bateman’s secret life is also heightened in the visual imagery on display. There is much more blood on Broadway! One of the aspects of the original show I was dissatisfied with was how relatively tame Bateman’s acts seemed. It made him less dangerous. Here, we see him truly attack his rival Paul Owen, which thanks to a screen separating the stage from the front rows, means they can be more generous with the fake blood. This continues in the second half when during one of my favourite songs from the show the bodies literally pile up!

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Benjamin Walker, Jennifer Damiano & Alice Ripley

I also thought it was an interesting directorial decision to stage some of the scenes of the second half with Bateman just his underwear, covered in blood. He chats with Jean in his office and encounters Luis in Barney’s all while in this state, but they treat him as normal, giving the audience a sense that perhaps not everything in this world is real. For me, this plays in to the conclusion of the show very well indeed and is a great change.

From a cast perspective, personally there were some positives and some disappointments. One of my favourite characters from London was Jean, the kind and caring assistant in love with Bateman and the nicest character in the whole show. Jennifer Damiano plays her well, but vocally Cassandra Compton was much stronger in the role, with songs such as “A Girl Before” standing out. Damiano didn’t hit the top notes as strongly in my view, which did disappoint me. Susannah Fielding also seemed to find a greater to depth to the character of Evelyn than her Broadway counterpart Helene Yorke. I did particularly enjoy Theo Stockman’s portrayal of Bateman’s friend Tim Price. He was quite different from Jonathan Bailey and was a wonderful dry-humoured element of the production, in a role expanded on Broadway. Tim Price’s breakdown in Tunnel and subsequent disappearance felt odd to me and his reappearance towards the end distracting from the build up to the show’s conclusion. By cutting this plot point and having Tim remain a part of the show throughout was a much better decision.

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Broadway’s American Psycho is much bloodier than London!

A lot hangs on the performance of Patrick Bateman himself and Benjamin Walker is the Broadway production’s biggest asset. He is superb in the role. He brings humour, energy and crucially a predatory darkness at all the right points to the character. Walker is able to be both charming and dangerous and his audience interaction is always on point. It is a different Bateman from Matt Smith’s portrayal in London. I liked both in different ways. If not vocally brilliant, by the end of the show I always felt truly sorry for Smith’s Bateman; he seemed to be someone trapped in a miserable and ultimately fantasist life, in which his wedding felt more akin to a funeral for him. I didn’t have the same reaction to Walker in the role. He seemed more frustrated by his inability to fit in than Smith’s Bateman did and perhaps that meant the end didn’t seem quite as hopeless for Broadway’s Patrick Bateman.

I still really enjoyed American Psycho. Its design, direction, choreography and soundtrack as a whole (despite my preference for the London song arrangements) remain as thrilling and entertaining as they did two years ago. I worry that it may have been more at home in the intimate space of the Almeida and may not enjoy a long life on Broadway, but I hope I’m wrong and that New York audiences go along for the ride. I’m thrilled I was able to see both versions of this production, especially as on reflection they did seem like two quite different shows.

American Psycho continues its run at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (236 West 45th St.). Running-time: 2 hours 40 minutes (including one interval). $37 rush tickets are available each day at the box office, with a limited amount of $45 tickets available via a digital lottery. For more information, visit its website. For anyone interested in listening to the London cast recording, you can stream it for free here. The original London production can also be viewed for free (by advance appointment only) at the V&A Museum’s Theatre & Performance Archive in London. 

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