Fatal Attraction

  • Our critic's rating:
    Average press rating:
    Wednesday, March 26, 2014
    Review by:
    Mark Shenton

    The theatre's ongoing determination to exploit the back film catalogue for theatrical gain continues unbroken (and unbidden, at least by me). The venerable Theatre Royal Haymarket - which once premiered plays by none other than Oscar Wilde - is now home to the latest theatrical knock-off of a well-known film title. This very theatre has over the last few years already hosted feeble stage versions of When Harry Met Sally and Breakfast at Tiffany's. It now throws up - in almost every sense - what I might be tempted to dismiss as cheap, opportunistic commercial tat if it wasn't all so palpably expensively produced.

    Trevor Nunn's effortful, over-busy production comes equipped with no fewer than 11 extras, who prowl and fill the stage trying to look animated as passers-by in parks, offices and bars. The wage bill for them alone could populate several fringe plays. (There's also, of course, a live bunny, who might just give the best performance of the evening.)

    But if that's laughably profligate, the drama that they are meant to be providing colour to is as pedestrian as it is pointless. Knowing the plot, as many of the audience will, from the 1987 film version - which has been not so subtly updated to include laptop computers, e-mail and mobile phones - means that there's no tension or surprises left to spring, as a successful, married Manhattan lawyer finds himself endlessly stalked by the woman he's had a one-night stand with after he met her in a bar while his wife and 8-year-old daughter were away visiting the country.

    And while the play version - scripted, like the film, by James Dearden - might be expected to delve into darker layers of psychological motivations to both the prey and preyed-upon, director Nunn and Dearden merely seem to be content to be putting the film up on stage. As smarty designed by Robert Jones with a cinematic fluidity to move between different locations, it even aspires to look like a cross-cutting film.

    The sets are unquestionably the star of the show and its single most animated quality. The actors flounder in the face of the cardboard positions they are forced to adopt, both by the director and a script that offers them no texture or tension to play against.

    The pity is that Mark Bazeley - so good in Nunn's production of a play about another marriage that hits the rocks last year, Scenes from a Marriage - is a terrific actor, but has nowhere to take the part. Natascha McElhone and Kristin Davis as the two women in his life - lover and wife respectively - have even less momentum to their characters.


    "Quite why the distinguished director Trevor Nunn has decided to direct this high–class schlock is a mystery to me, though I sometimes think that Trev would be happy to direct the traffic if he couldn't get a gig in the theatre. We are a long way here from his glory days with the RSC...."
    Charles Spencer for The Telegraph

    "Kristin Davis is very convincing as Dan's smiley spouse, showing us the deep hurt of a woman with fertility problems at the news that her husband has impregnated a casual fling."
    Paul Taylor for The Independent

    "There is something pathetic about the commercial theatre's increasing reliance on movies for source material...even though James Dearden has made some adjustments to his 1987 script for Fatal Attraction, it remains an essentially hollow experience."
    Michael Billington for The Guardian

    "Trevor Nunn's sluggish direction doesn't help. Every bit of business seems to happen a beat too late and the bunny-boiling scene is badly squandered amid muddled logistics."
    Simon Edge for The Daily Express

    External links to full reviews from popular press
    - Telegraph - Independent - Guardian

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