American Psycho - A new musical thriller
Almeida Theatre (London), 3 December 2013 to 25 January 2014
When Bret Easton Ellis published American Psycho back in 1991 it was mauled by critics; literary experts found the violence gory and gratuitous, women baulked at the misogyny while others suggested that Easton Ellis was taking a cheap shot for global notoriety with a novel that couldn’t help but dominate headlines.
What was never disputed in the days and years before the novel was adorned with the cult classic status it enjoys now (American Psycho was later made into a critically acclaimed film starring Christian Bale and, in recent years, a stage show which premieres in London next week) was its importance to luxury fashion. Never before had a world in which logos serve as currency been captured so perfectly in fiction. And crucially, never before had we met a character like Patrick Bateman — a serial designer clothes wearer who considers his Valentino couture suit and Oliver Peoples spectacles far more significant to his life than any of the horrendous murders he commits.
Text by Karen Dacre, Fashion Editor at the London Evening Standard.
As well as being sold out (although more tickets go on sale to the public on 5 December, 10 am), the show, directed by Rupert Goold and starring former Doctor Who Matt Smith, is being honored by menswear online store Mr Porter, which has enlisted iconic photographer Miles Aldridge to create a one-off campaign inspired by Bateman and the predatory 1980s Wall Street world he incarnates.
Aldridge’s haunting vision shows various actors from the production including Smith and Les Misérables star Hugh Skinner sharply kitted out in a host of Mr Porter favorites including shirts by Turnbull & Asser, ties by Lanvin and suits by Gucci. The images, inspired by Francis Bacon’s lonely ectoplasmic shadow, are displayed on pop colored backgrounds.
“Photographing the actors on a slow shutter speed meant their movements created Bacon-esque brush strokes with a ghost-like transparency which seemed to reveal the dark vacuum of emptiness inside the characters,” says Aldridge. “As buzzy as the drug fueled, non-stop party and money bonanza that was 1980s New York, everyone in the book is isolated in their own private worlds of ambition and rage. Thinking about that brought me to Bacon.”
Throughout the run of the musical, which opens on Tuesday, Mr Porter will also play host to a microsite dedicated to the novel on which it will offer advice on honing the perfect business card and grooming advice for those who fancy transforming their grooming routine into a major morning production to rival Bateman’s — only time will tell if this includes the honey almond body scrub and a herb-mint facial mask applied by Bateman during the early pages of the novel.
For Jeremy Langmead, editor in chief at Mr Porter, Bateman’s reputation as a luxury fashion anti-hero makes sense. “He did dress well — albeit in a very 1980s yuppie way. And with rigor.”
Bateman’s preoccupations — sourcing the right suit, maintaining perfect skin, looking his best — are the same worries faced by Londoners today and explain why Easton Ellis’s tale remains so compelling 22 years on.
“There’s a little bit in all of us that is interested in business cards, the success of colleagues, the perils of dating, the right tables in restaurants and looking our best,” confirms Langmead.
But he is hopeful, understandably, that the similarities between Bateman and Mr Porter’s customers are few and far between. “I think there are aspects of his life we recognize in either ourselves or those we work with but not too many,” says Langmead. “Particularly his less appealing habits, such as serial murder.”