Fatal Attraction, theatre review

3.00

Theatre Royal Haymarket: Equivocal stage drama is weirdly detached

How do you make a movie audience root for a hero who cheats on his wife? That was the problem facing the makers of Fatal Attraction back in 1987. They solved it by turning the Glenn Close character into a bunny-boiling psycho from a horror film.

In a programme note, the author James Dearden admits that from draft to draft, the blame progressively shifted from Dan to Alex “the other woman” who won't accept that a one-night stand is the end of the matter and becomes his obsessive stalker. 

After test screenings, he even reluctantly changed the ending to the notorious bathroom scene that exploits the nightmare idea that a villain is never really dead – until the betrayed wife gets to blow her definitively away.

Dearden wanted to restore the ambivalence of his original concept.  Hence this play, directed by Trevor Nunn. 

The trouble is that the movie, though meretricious, is horribly compelling whereas, despite the tense flashback-structure, this worthier, more equivocal stage drama left me feeling weirdly detached throughout. 

Mark Bazeley (Dan Gallagher) and Natascha McElhone (Alex Forrest) in Fatal Attraction Mark Bazeley (Dan Gallagher) and Natascha McElhone (Alex Forrest) in Fatal Attraction

With a glossy blue-neon design by Robert Jones, the proceedings have been updated to the present day, though too little is made of how advances in technology – email, texts, messaging – have widened a stalker's scope for inflicting torture. 

There's an ideological shift, too. Mark Bazeley is a lean, handsome Dan, who here gives a running narrative commentary on his own fateful story, but the script and the actor's fine performance produce a reverse-effect to the one in movie.

As the corporate lawyer's desperation mounts and he pours out murderous fury to his drinking buddy, we get a heightened sense of his unpleasant chauvinist prejudices – his self-serving insensitivity about abortion, his belief that a one-night stand with an attractive woman is virtually the patriotic duty of any red-blooded heterosexual American male. 

By the same token, the play wants us to feel conflicted about Alex. Is she a tragic figure as well as a borderline psychotic? So it scales up her identification with the dumped Madam Butterfly, whose aching music soars through the drama. And it tries to suggest that, if only Alex hadn't been driven mad by loneliness, she might have been a most delightful catch. 

Sporting a sleek blonde mane rather Glenn Close's unnerving Medusa look, Natascha McElhone is obliged to oscillate between bouts of charming, humorous rationality; vindictive ruthlessness; and pathological need.  Perhaps understandably, the resulting performance feels bitty and mechanical.  There's not enough dread-inducing drive in this more politically correct version of Alex. 

Kristin Davis is very convincing as Dan's smiley spouse, showing us the deep hurt of a woman with fertility problems at the news that her husband has impregnated a casual fling. 

Spoiler alert: the ambiguous Butterfly gesture of the play's climax (given the full high-arty works here) rules out any return to happy families.  You'll be wondering about the bunny. Well she's white and cute and elicits from the audience as big a gurgle of doting delight as Dame Angela Lansbury in Blithe Spirit.

To 21 June; 020 7930 8800

Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'