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, only this time it’s directed by former Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company Trevor Nunn, and stars Sex and the City’s Kristin Davis as the trusting housewife, theatre regular Mark Bazeley as the adulterous husband and Californication’s Natascha McElhone as the crazed lover.
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 allow audiences to empathise with all three characters. “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) turns and speaks to the audience, immediately setting him up as the ‘good guy’. In fact, his soliloquies 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 her 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 the rabbit scene), 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 Bazeley and McElhone, or a slightly wooden style of acting from Bazeley, the plausibility of such events occurring feels unlikely, and occasionally, 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.
Fatal Attraction is at Theatre Royal Haymarket until 21 June 2014. Performances are Mondays through Saturdays at 7.30pm, and matinee shows on Thursdays and Saturdays at 2.30pm. Tickets £12-£65, along with a limited number of day tickets at £15 that go on sale from the box office, in person only, from 10am on the day of performance. Londonist saw this on a complimentary ticket.