Fatal Attraction: Theatre Review

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So I booked tickets for the West End adaptation of Fatal Attraction before the cast was even announced – I was just intrigued to see how such a taut psychological thriller would be pulled off onstage. It is a version of the 1987 movie starring Michael Douglas and Glenn Close. I didn’t know who Mark Bazeley was but I was very happy to see that the female leads would be played by Natasha McElhone (The Truman Show, Solaris) and Kristin Davis from Sex and the City.

The plot in a quick nutshell: Dan (Bazeley) is married to Beth (Davis) and they live in NYC with the daughter Ellen. He is left in the city on his own one weekend and he meets Alex (McElhone) in a bar. It was supposed to be a one-night-stand but it is slowly revealed that Alex has psychological problems and won’t let Dan leave, she cuts herself to get his attention, phones him all the time, shows up his family home. She will not stop until he leaves his wife for her.

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I watched the show the day after opening night, where the general consensus was bad. It got terrible reviews in the leading newspapers and personally, I think the critics went in with the notion it would be terrible so they made it so. Because of this prior knowledge, my expectations were very low – even more so when I discovered the theatre wasn’t even full.

I’m not going to say it was perfect because it wasn’t but I hardly ever see a show that is flawless. I felt Bazeley’s American accent was not great all the time, particularly during his monologues to the audience or when he is shouting. During conversations, it’s really good, which was odd. I found the monologues a bit cliched but they were necessary for the progression of the story and practically so the set could be changed. They just could have been scripted better.

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Davis was adorable as always but her character seemed a lot like Charlotte (from SATC) so I didn’t consider it a massive departure. There were times when she could have spoken louder. Her character wasn’t fully fleshed out in the beginning but we got to know her more throughout. Davis played her well but I would have liked her to have exploded more when she discovers Dan’s infidelity – whereas she plays it as a simmering rage boiling underneath but never quite blowing her top.

Elhone was excellent but she was not full-on psycho like Alex in the movie. Glenn Close’s Alex was completely crazy and a danger to everyone but here, she seemed slightly more in control of herself. Her actions seemed more calculated and that she didn’t want to be with Dan, she just wanted him to pay for treating her like a slut. I was expecting the psycho side to come out and it didn’t, so I was slightly disappointed by that.

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The dialogue was really good. It could be funny and light one minute and dark the next and you never really knew which character you should be sympathising with. I loved the two-hander scenes, especially when Alex and Dan are sparring off each other. The staging was again brilliant and have to applaud the set. That was extraordinary – I was so impressed at the attention to detail and how quickly they managed to transform the stage. Alex’s apartment looked exactly like the one in the film, the tap had running water… I just loved it all. It also recreated the hustle and bustle of New York thanks to sound effects and a number of extras.

However, I did not like the ending. The end is a contested issue because the writer of the screenplay, James Dearden, claimed that when he gave the script to Hollywood bigwigs, it became something he didn’t recognise and felt he wasn’t his anymore. The studio changed the ending following a test screening and Close protested for two weeks about the new ending but finally gave in – which made the ending of the film where Alex is shot by Beth. In the original ending, Alex kills herself and frames Dan for it but Beth receives a cassette tape from Alex talking about suicide and manages to get Dan off and they presumably live happily ever after.

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Dearden, the writer of this version, reinstated his original ending but it doesn’t have the same impact. I knew they wouldn’t do the bath fight scene because it would be too difficult logistically but I was waiting for the massive showdown and there wasn’t one so I felt let down. Also there’s no ‘happily ever after’ resolution here as Alex kills herself and Dan gets arrested – that’s it. You don’t know the outcome!!

I actually think you will like this better if you haven’t seen the movie because the action and characterisation are more understated and there was no psycho crazy or massive pay-off. Even the bunny boiling scene was disappointing (although I’m being harsh, they couldn’t exactly kill a rabbit onstage! ) The dialogue is great to follow, the acting was brilliant – kudos to Mark who was onstage the entire time – and it was really enjoyable. I have little niggles – especially the ending – but I don’t see how the critics savaged it so badly. It deserves more praise.

 

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