Review: Fatal Attraction

Attraction fades in the transition to stage


By John Nathan, March 31, 2014
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Theatre Royal Haymarket, London SW1

Flirting with disaster: Mark Bazeley and Kristin Davis as the Gallaghers in the stage remake of Fatal Attraction at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

Flirting with disaster: Mark Bazeley and Kristin Davis as the Gallaghers in the stage remake of Fatal Attraction at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

I stopped saying that adapting good or even great movies for the stage is pointless when Festen proved me wrong. And yet I still think it every time a new transition from screen-to-stage is announced.

Even with the star wattage of Sex in the City's Kristin Davis as devoted wife Beth Gallagher, Trevor Nunn's slick, banal version of the terrific 1987 Hollywood thriller rather proves the point that you have to have a really inventive take on a film to make the stage version worth the audience's while.

Writer James Dearden has said that his adaptation of his screenplay is more morally ambiguous than the story insisted on by the film studio. And certainly Natascha McElhone as Alex suggests that a fathom-deep unhappiness lies beneath her beauty, though this is never explored.

Dearden's plot is still terrific but there are some clumsy false notes here. You'd think alarm bells might ring for Mark Bazeley's devoted husband Dan, whose only sexual betrayal of Beth occurs after randomly encountering Alex in a bar, when she bathes him in a gaze of besotted significance at the apparently amazing coincidence that he too loves Madam Butterfly.

As Dan says in one of his cod-philosophical turns as the play's narrator, it must be fate.

McElhone is a satisfyingly unhinged foil to Davis's homespun charm. But collectively, Nunn's short and sharply directed individual scenes leave a long time being dwelt before the war between lovers kicks off in earnest. I much preferred the film version.

    Last updated: 3:19pm, March 31 2014