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Rising Arts Productions: American Psycho - Review by Faith Jessel

Satire and slaughter collide at the Illawarra Arts Centre, where being ‘Hip to be Square’ is the ultimate killer credential. Rising Arts Productions presents 'American Psycho: The Musical', a gloriously gruesome adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' outrageous and timely dystopian novel. They carve it up and leave you for DEAD.





Long before social media spawned a filter-fixated digital generation and soulless selfie brothel of OnlyFans and Influencers -  there was Patrick Bateman. The titular anti-hero and original master of curated chaos, narcissism, and verbal violence of corporate greed.


Presenting the profound and disturbing delusions of a serial killer’s mind requires exceptional dissection and direction as does ensuring that this cult classic stays on the right path of travesty. Lampooning the corrupt and the corruptible. Ironic oxymorons are always fun, but a messed-up guy in Armani with a chainsaw isn't the point. Fortunately, director Jarrod Riesinger delivers the perfect blend of self-awareness and a tongue-in-cheek tone, ridiculing both the themes and its characters while effectively skewering the excesses and absurdities of Bateman’s world.


This latest (and fabulous) incarnation doesn't suffer from the weight of being performed to a large auditorium. The Bruce Gordon Theatre was the perfect venue, its intimacy ensuring the entire production was an assault on the senses while exacerbating the claustrophobia of Bateman's psychosis. This show fires on all cylinders.

 

Alex Perritt very quickly shook off Christian Bale's enormous legacy and completely owned his version of Bateman. He oozed smooth charismatic charm with unsettling intensity whilst delivery hilarious one-liners with an icy stare and an eye twitch of

impeccable timing. Perritt’s powerful vocals and razor-sharp wit perfectly encapsulated the casual cruelty and sick sadism of a rampant psychopath. He skillfully wove a thread of captivating vulnerability into Bateman's psyche, as he struggled to navigate the suffocating grip of the Dark Tetrad, only to plunge deeper into the depths of depraved madness. ‘This Is Not an Exit’ was a standout moment of inner turmoil, while showcasing his voice as it soared through the aria with the precision of a surgeons’ scalpel.





Tanya Boyle nailed the character of Evelyn, Patrick's latest brand-name accessory. Boyle’s outrageous vacuity is a riotous send-up of the materialistic elite. Her over the top voguing during 'You Are What You Wear'  was the most hilarious number of the evening in its takedown of absurd status-driven 80's culture. Much of Evelyn's irony stems from her willful ignorance of her fiancé's deranged nature and his seething hatred as he fantasises about permanently shutting her up.  


Ella Perusco's was a lovely counterbalance of this yuppie glut in her quietly intense performance as Jean, conveying a trapped desperation and longing. Her solo "A Girl Before" poignantly captured the suffocating effects of 80's superficiality for overlooked and undervalued women.


Bateman’s rival, Paul Owen (Alexander Morgan) brought a delicious smarm to the character's entitled and oddly benign condescending air. Their scenes crackled with tension, the rivalry and one-upmanship brilliantly depicted in a droll dance-off across a spinning chrome table, culminating in a wonderfully violent vignette - because nothing says 'intermission' like a bloody axe. 





Dynamic duo Hannah Perritt and Noah Cegielski spark-plugged the show with scene-stealing performances as plastic doll Courtney and her fiancé Luis, a match made in hell. Courtney's Xanax addiction has turned her mind into a vacant shell while Luis is a corporate drone who's resigned to being an underdog, perpetually climbing the corporate ladder whilst remaining closely closeted. We laugh in guilty pleasure  - both are hideously funny as they punch out some classic one liners. 


For such a short run, this is an impressively well-mounted and slick production. The versatile and interactive set design was a clever blend of starkness, snappy light plotting and a visual effects overload, including glorious projections. The costumes were a stunning reflection of the era's excess, with meticulous attention to detail, expertly colour-coded for each scene. 


Musical Director James Ebdon does a fantastic job as DJ for Duncan Sheik's score. The electric throb of 80's synth pop echoes the pulsing pressure of Patrick's rapidly decaying mind, while showcasing Ebony Austin's tight, efficient, and fittingly robotic choreography. At times, acappella harmonies offered a haunting respite from the chaos, the ensemble blending in poignant unity to create contrasting moments of transcendent beauty and pain. 


As the final notes fade away, the audience is left staring into the dark abyss. The shiny wrapper of the American Dream has been ripped off, exposing Bateman's terrible void - one that still slices through the noise of our modern world. After all, references to Tom Cruise and ‘Les Misérables’ -staples of 1980s culture that just won't quit - drew the loudest laughter and biggest cultural cringe. What's truly unsettling, though, is that modern-day admirers are now hijacking Bateman, hailing him as the quintessential sigma male - a peculiar and paradoxical shift, given that this character is a scathing critique of toxic masculinity and the psychotic breakdown of society. 


American Psycho holds up a mirror to our society's darkest impulses, daring us to look away - but we can't, because, like Patrick Bateman, it's just too damn fascinating. 


Rising Arts presents a constellation of talented stars that shine brightly in this stellar production the thrills and chills will cut deep, as the axe's shadow follows you out it was a bloody great night.


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