American Psycho is making a triumphant return to Sydney in June this year. After a fully sold out season at The Hayes back in May 2019, this time it is playing at the Playhouse at the Sydney Opera House in June!
Most of the cast are returning for the new run, including THE American Psycho himself. Ben Gerrard who played the role to award winning acclaim at the season at The Hayes, is once again inviting this rather objectionable character into his and the audience’s lives.
While talking to Gerrard, who has the unenviable task of once again taking on the psychotic character of Patrick Bateman, it was obvious that there was more to this story than just a fabulous piece about an openly gay actor starring in an Australian musical theatre smash.
It’s a bit hard to wash this man out of your hair
Taking on this role requires a level of commitment to the craft that most musical theatre actors would not have to put in. Once you take off the costume and the make up and blow yourself a kiss in the mirror before you head out of the dressing room for the night, an actor is done!
Ben Gerrard goes through a whole other process to portray the violently heterosexual and homophobic Patrick Bateman, but it doesn’t end when the costume comes off.
Because while playing Bateman, Gerrard has to look like Bateman – even in the most personal of moments, such as getting out of the shower and staring himself down in the mirror in the morning. He does, after all have to have the extremely fit body of Patrick Bateman, an incredible narcissist and absolutely unforgiving when it comes to the perfection of his appearance.
This is a 24/7 kinda role
When asked what it’s like preparing for an all consuming role like that and if he has a process when he gets home from performing Bateman to disengage and “put him to bed”, Gerrard confides: “The six weeks I have off before beginning rehearsals, I have been rereading the book again, relearning my lines and songs, relearning the choreography, all this before the very short rehearsal period to remount the production begins and then in tandem with that, obviously I have six weeks to completely overhaul myself.”
“I guess the physical preparation is so immense, the fact that he is so obsessed with his physical appearance that as an actor to pull that off I inevitably have to engage with a regime that makes me feel like I look like the character! So it isn’t a matter of just coming to the theatre for two hours a day, for me my relationship to this role and this production becomes a 24/7 job, which you know, is a thing!”
A two year break brings a different perspective
Gerrard is approaching the character differently this time, two years on and with the world being in such a different place to where it was last time he did the role.
“Yes definitely, for me personally, the first time I did the show two years ago, I took a lot of satisfaction in the fact that we were satirising and critiquing this type of male but this time around, post covid, in a new world, two years older, I guess I’m picking up the script again and having the courage to see in what ways I identify with Patrick, where my flaws and his overlap.”
“I’m trying to be brave as an actor in order to confront those in myself and realise that I am not perfect! I too have status anxieties – as an actor in this tiny little Sydney industry where we’re always pitched against our peers and resources are scarce, there are many horrible qualities in Patrick that I relate to and I’m sure a lot of Sydney audiences will too. We live in a cutthroat time and place and so for me, putting him to bed, it is a delicate dance between me and this character.”
It's one of the most controversial books of the 20th century, to this day sold in shrink wrap with warning labels.
Now, 20 years after its hit film adaptation, #AmericanPsycho is back! And this time it's… a glitzy musical? 🔪💸👔https://t.co/wJX8RqAQ4V
— Sydney Opera House (@SydOperaHouse) April 15, 2021
Ben also talks about the relevance of the themes that the show comments on in relation to the heady days of excess in the 80’s and where we are as a a society 30-40 years later,
“We’re living in a time when there is a real push back towards the entitlement of white, cis, hetero patriarchy and I think American Psycho is absolutely the epitome of that. The story centres around a cis, white entitled heterosexual male who is born into a world that he believes he should be king of and when he is not endowed with that, his vicious status anxieties drive him to extreme violence and whether that’s real or fantasy is left to interpretation, it doesn’t really matter.”
“I think American Psycho really really has that to say now right now, especially in a post-Trump world where the story centres on a protagonist who explicitly and repeatedly idealises and aspires to be Donald Trump, so that in itself is incredibly prescient and confronting to take on hand when you’re watching the show.”