Review: Fatal Attraction

Theatre Royal Bath until 12 February

“What’s for dinner?”

It’s not a question you’d want to ask Fatal Attraction’s key protagonist Alex Forrest… and those of us who are familiar with Adrian Lyne’s 1987 now iconic, big screen psycho-thriller blockbuster know exactly why. 

But can such a taut, tense, highly-strung film, heavily reliant on nerve-jangling jump cuts and almost Hitchcockian atmospherics to create that all-important edge-of-the-seat suspense, translate to the stage? The film’s scriptwriter James Dearden reckoned it could… and in general terms, he was right to trust his instincts. 

For those of us who aren’t aware of the origins of the now-familiar phrase ‘bunny boiler’, this is where it began: when his wife goes away on a weekend trip to look for a new family home in the country, New York lawyer Dan Gallagher meets glamorous and ostensibly sophisticated publishing company editor Alex Forrest in a Manhattan bar. Dan and Alex have dinner together. Dan and Alex spend the weekend together. Dan makes it clear to Alex that, to his mind at least, this was a no-strings, one-time-only fling. But Alex ends up making it very clear to Dan that she has other ideas entirely…

In this brand-new stage production, Dearden has taken his original characters out of the late 1980s and plonked them in right here, right now territory, armed with mobile phones that, at key points in the plot, certainly serve to amp up the stalker-centric tension. The Covid-era fist bumps that Dan and Alex exchange when they first meet, however, do little to offer an update on the AIDS-related paranoia-cloud that, 35 years ago, added further pernicious judgement on the already controversial notion of fast flings. It’s difficult too to ‘take against’ the character of a woman whose severe mental health issues are being exploited – and perpetuated – by an over-privileged man who defends his diabolical situation to his best friend with the immortal line: “what would any hot-blooded, heterosexual American male do?”; if Dearden was attempting to lift Fatal Attraction out of a time capsule, he hasn’t really succeeded. What he has done, however, is present audiences with yet more debate on the #MeToo theme… which, all told, isn’t a bad thing at all.

Above: Susie Amy as Beth Gallagher, Oliver Farnworth as Dan Gallagher and Kym Marsh as Alex Forrest
Below: Oliver Farnworth as Dan Gallagher and Kym Marsh as Alex Forrest

Kym (Coronation Street; Morning Live; Hear’Say) Marsh is fabulous as Alex, seguing from super-cool vamp to super-crazy psychopath and back again on the turn of a (very) high heel, eschewing all notions of relying on Glenn Close’s hyper-maniacal film portrayal for inspiration and totally owning the role in her own right. As Dan, Oliver (Coronation Street; Mr Selfridge; The Girl On The Train) Farnworth comes across as a little bit too uncharismatic to be the object of Alex’s obsessional affection… but then again, perhaps his one-dimensionality is all part of his ‘charm’ to both his equally one-dimensional, uncharismatic wife (played to the character’s very best advantage by Susie Amy, despite the fact that she’s never given the opportunity to be anything more than Dan’s peripheral ‘other half’) and the deadly femme fatale alike. 

If you’re expecting a modern take on an old story to throw outmoded gender stereotypes out with the bunny-boiling water, you’ve definitely come to the wrong place. If, however, you’re in the mood for a hyper-suspenseful drama set against a majestic collection of projected backdrops complemented by a thoroughly seductive soundscape and choreographed by graceful direction throughout, you’ll be seduced; just make sure you’ve double-locked the rabbit hutch before you leave the house…

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Featured image: Oliver Farnworth as Dan Gallagher and Kym Marsh as Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction | All photographs taken by Tristram Kenton