Fatal Attraction at the Haymarket Theatre
In 1987 this breakout blockbuster thriller, written by James Dearden, coined the phrase “bunny boiler” (unstable 30-something sex siren with a noisy biological clock) and terrified married men in cinemas all over town. Fast forward to today and this cautionary tale of casual adultery adapted by Dearden has become a play in the West End.
Dan is a handsome, happily married corporate lawyer living the American dream; he’s respected and successful, with a lovely little girl and a beautiful trusting wife. But when Beth takes their daughter to visit grandma, Dan finds himself in a bar chatting to the stunningly enigmatic and very discreet Alex. Succumbing to this tempting attraction does indeed prove fatal, as in a mere three months that dream life splinters into a waking nightmare.
Directed by the great Trevor Nunn and with impressive sets by Robert Jones, this play has pace and polished efficiency. However, the succession of short switching scenes critically inhibits ability to connect emotionally. It’s clear Dearden’s aim is to reintroduce a grey ambiguity rather than the black and white hat approach, sharing responsibility between Dan and Alex. Nevertheless Fatal Attraction’s characters don’t quite manage to break their archetypal moulds, so his slight tonal shifts and even the altered ending doesn’t really pack that major punch. We’re not given enough organic inner texture to bond with and consequentially empathy remains detached and in short supply.
The occasional humour hits its target effectively; that bunny scene is handled with tact and all the actors do their best. International mega-star Kirstin Davis (Sex In the City’s Charlotte) is sincere as loving, if diminished, wife Beth, and Natascha McElhone picks up the carving knife from an iconic Glenn Close as a softer yet still chilling Alex. Mark Bazeley skilfully reprises Michael Douglas’s desperate Dan, so their best is certainly notable, but a good deal of the palpable mania and intense chemistry shockingly effective in the film seems sadly lost in translation to the stage.
The movie nailed viscerally a moment in time; reflecting then influential values and fears, it spawned countless reinventions and created an instantly recognisable personality type. But the obsessive two-night stand who’s dangerously in love with you is now a dime a dozen, and with the prospect of modern adultery only an app or double-click away, perceptions of infidelity have shifted, perhaps making this Fatal Attraction a vacantly dated victim of its own success.
Photos: Tristram Kenton
Fatal Attraction is at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 21st June 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.