Hetain Patel: American Boy

Hetain Patel’s American Boy, at Contact from 1 – 2 October, is an exploration of the films that have influenced his life.  On his website he says this work is ‘both a self-portrait and a reflection on the mainstream popular culture that moulds much of who we all are, whether we are aware of it or not’.

Film references are cleverly put together using both specific references and by building reveals through the show.  He delivers lines from films including American Psycho, Reservoir Dogs, Gladiator and Usual Suspects, which are supported by a Michael Caine acting masterclass.  The stage is empty apart from five TV screens, a video camera and lights, which are used effectively during the show to create a simple but powerful visual effect.  Movement is precise and visually effective.  There is great physical theatre here.

But for me there was a missing element in this show which was the narrative thread that pulled several complex ideas together.  Perhaps this is the problem when performance art and theatre meet.  Are we supposed to internalise the emotion of the piece and identify our own meaning?  Or is it better for the performer to attach that meaning?  Are film lines delivered in a format reminiscent of young people acting out their favourite scenes meant to build the character of the young man, or do we associate this with people we have known?

There is so much to recommend this show but for me there just wasn’t enough to link the themes together.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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