Fatal Attraction Stalks its Way to the West End
As written for Londonist
Adapting the Michael Douglas / Glenn Close bunny-boiling psycho-thriller Fatal Attraction from the cinema screen to the stage is not something many writers would take on. Yet the film’s original screenplay writer, James Dearden, has done just that.
This version sees former Royal Shakespeare Company stalwart Trevor Nunn take the directing helm, with Sex and the City’s Kristin Davis as the trusting housewife, West End regular Mark Bazeley as the adulterous husband and Californication’s Natascha McElhone as the crazed girlfriend.
First question fans of the highly successful film will ask: is the play as good as the film? And the answer undoubtedly is no. But the next question: if you hadn’t seen the film, would you enjoy this? That answer is unclear.
The script stays relatively true to the film, with minor character tweaks that Dearden hopes will prompt audiences to empathise with each of the characters thrown into the raucous love triangle. “There are no white hats and no black hats,” he says.
But within ten minutes from the start of the play, Dan Gallagher (Mark Bazeley) is regurgitating soliloquies, that are so frequent, the audience is given no other choice but to root for him.
Swiftly transitioning from fluoro-lit New York bars to upper class apartments (only wealthy Manhattan-ites like the Gallagher family could afford), Dearden sets up the scenario so many married-somethings have either pondered, or acted out: Dan is free from his family for the weekend, meets stunning Alex Forrest (Natascha McElhone), engages in a hot and steamy weekend with the leggy lawyer and returns home hoping his wrongdoings remain clandestine.
But of course, things don’t go to plan. Alex has been done over by too many married men, and decides to take matters into her own hands, literally. From wrist slitting to car thrashing (and yes, even that boiling bunny), vengeful Alex shows just how obsessive love can be.
The problem here is these terrorising antics (that made cinema audiences shriek in horror) are not that frightening in this rendition. Whether it’s the lack of chemistry between the two lovers, or a slightly wooden style of acting from Bazeley, the plausibility of such events occurring feels unlikely, and at times, downright over-the-top.
McElhone tries hard, however, to make Alex vulnerable, giving her a reason to carry out such monstrous acts. And that works. Yet when it comes to the spine tingling moments, her inner-demon just isn’t creepy enough. On the flip side, Kristin Davis plays Beth Gallagher all too easily — it’s too bad she wasn’t cast against type as Alex. Now that would have been interesting.
In the end, whether or not audiences have seen the film doesn’t seem to matter. Laughs, gasps and screams could be heard throughout the show — a point proving there are enough moments to keep viewers entertained, and maybe even a little scared.