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Matt Smith's American Psycho carves up theatre critics

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Dec 13, 2013 | 3:50am EST

Actor Matt Smith has divided British theatre critics by pulling in mixed reviews for his turn as a singing psychopath in blood-soaked musical American Psycho. The Doctor Who star takes on the role of psychotic Wall Street banker Patrick Bateman, the part made famous by Christian Bale in the 2000 film, in a new stage show based on the original book by Bret Easton Ellis. The musical, set to a score of 1980s-style electro-pop similar to that loved by the character in the book, opened at London's Almeida Theatre on Thursday night (12Dec13), and garnered mixed reviews from critics. Michael Billington of The Guardian was full of praise for the "stylish production" as well as Smith's "beautifully defined performance", adding, "Although this version of Bret Easton Ellis's notorious 1991 bestseller is a very different bucket of blood, it works superbly... The stand-out performer is the excellent Matt Smith who, with his square jaw and clean-cut aspect, perfectly embodies Bateman's preoccupation with appearances... He makes Bateman wholly believable." The Independent's Paul Taylor also gave the show a good write-up, calling it "diabolically slick" and hailing Smith's turn as Bateman as "compelling," while Steve Myall of the Daily Mirror, writes, "This show is a stylish feast... As the vain mass murderer of Manhattan - a role light years from Doctor Who - Smith kills it." However, Charles Spencer of The Daily Telegraph branded the show "glib, heartless and pretentious," adding, "Those hoping for the visceral thrill of a slasher movie will be disappointed... This show about cold, superficial people strikes me as being cold and superficial itself. I was also disappointed by Matt Smith's psycho... While Smith's Dr Who struck me as tiresomely zany, here he seems boringly blank." David Benedict of Variety also criticised the production's lack of gore, writing, "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 show's oddest decision is its near-total refusal to depict the gore that defines the work... It robs the show of darkness and, for the most part, any galvanizing sense of horror."

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