From Spiderman to the Matrix: new Sadler’s Wells show takes on US pop culture

Hetain Patel

Hetain Patel - Credit: Archant

Hetain Patel’s versatile one man show American Boy asks what your film taste says about you, finds Alex Bellotti.

Who hasn’t seen Michael Jackson moonwalk and wished they could do it themselves? Who hasn’t watched Spiderman swinging through the fictitious streets of New York and imagined being a crime fighting superhero themselves?

At the very least, Hetain Patel has and he’s now using such thoughts as the inspiration for his new one man show, American Boy, which is coming to Sadler’s Wells on May 28 and 29.

Inspired by American movie culture and homemade YouTube videos, the performance draws almost entirely from film and TV quotes, looking at the multiple personas that we all inhabit in our day-to-day lives.

As a Sadler’s Wells New Wave Associate Artist, the 34-year-old has already created several shows as a visual artist, but says he has a history of using mimicry in his work which he was keen to explore further.

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“With this show I wanted to tap into where the history of that comes from,” he explains. “This idea of you growing up as a kid in the playground, imitating the films you’d watched on TV the night before with all your friends – I was interested in what that might say about me or anybody actually.

“If I was to ask you, for example, to list from memory all the films, characters or quotes that make you who you are, it becomes quite a revealing list.”

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As a one man show based around his own life, American Boy certainly represents a personal journey for Patel. While laughs will be had in scenes where, for instance, he imagines Agent Smith from the Matrix conversing with Michael Cain, there are also “darker undertones. It does touch on things to do with racism and being a minority, and trying to break out of that.”

Describing the show as part stand up comedy, part theatre and part dance, the New Cross resident says the premise of a one man show was at first daunting, but he has been bowled over by the reaction it received on a short UK tour recently, where he was also surprised by the range of ages in the crowd each night.

“When I was making it, I knew that the quotes I was using were of a very particular time – they’re mainly from the ‘90s and late ‘80s – so they’re not relevant to every generation. But I tried to construct it in a way where the content of what’s being said in the quote and then the craft level of switching between characters and what that communicates with regards to identity can stand on its own.

“Whether you know the character or not, we can all relate to impersonating someone else as a joke or doing a voice from TV, or what that feels like and why you’d want to do it.”

Hetain Patel’s American Boy runs at Sadler’s Wells’ Lilian Baylis Studio, EC1R on May 28 and 29. Performances at 8pm; Tickets: £17. Visit

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