Robert Tanitch reviews Fatal Attraction at Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London SW1
A happily married corporate lawyer has a two-night fling with a high-powered and sexy career woman who freaks out completely when she is ditched. His male chauvinist friend, trying to give him support, justifies adultery, arguing all males are programmed to be unfaithful.
Fatal Attraction, the film, released in 1987, was a psychological, misogynistic, nerve-racking, Hitchcockian nightmare, in which the ultimate male paranoia was given the full high-voltage, high-gloss eroticism. It’s a hard cinematic act to follow.
So why would anybody, having seen the film with Michael Douglas and Glenn Close, want to see a stage version? The only reason is that the ending is now different.
Cinema test audiences didn’t like the way James Dearden’s film script originally ended. So the ending was rewritten and a domestic drama was transformed into a highly successful box-office slasher horror movie.
Trevor Nunn’s striking production, deploying an exceptionally large cast for a West End play, is extremely efficient in its staging and design. The designer is Robert Jones.
Mark Bazeley is good casting as the lawyer. The adaptation means he has to carry an excessive amount of clunky narrative, which he expertly delivers directly to the audience across the footlights
Natascha McElhone is excellent as the obsessive, psychotic stalker. Totally unhinged, she is both dangerous and fragile at the same time. McElhone looks like a woman who usually gets what she wants.
In the play she is meant to be more sympathetic; but those who saw the movie will still be carrying the “monster” baggage Glenn Close brought the role. Do you believe her when she says she is pregnant? Who can ever forget what she did to the family’s pet bunny rabbit?
There is no longer a diabolical bath tub scene in the famed diabolical Henri Georges Clouzot manner, which may disappoint some cinemagoers. Instead the heroine identifies with Cio-Cio-San in Madam Butterfly which means there is a lot of Puccini throughout. Operagoers will know what to expect.