Tuesday 3rd May 2022 at the Grand Theatre and Opera House, York.
Written by James Dearden and based on the iconic 1987 Paramount Pictures movie, this production of Fatal Attraction bravely makes its way on stage with a relatively small cast, a confident set design and some interesting – if at times odd – choices.
For those unfamiliar with the tale, Fatal Attraction follows a brief but ill-fated affair between two young, good-looking professionals. Dan (Oliver Farnworth), finding himself alone for the weekend as his wife (Louise Redknapp) heads to the country, meets a mysterious woman named Alex (Susie Amy) in a bar by chance. What begins as a nonchalant fling while the girl-next-door-type wife is away quickly becomes a nightmare when Alex decides she’s not quite done with dirty Dan…
This is a capable cast, despite some unsound takes on American accents. Redknapp is likeable as the sweet, dedicated wife wronged by her chancer of a husband. Farnworth moves between charmer, chancer, downright misogynist and unwitting victim well, and he’s well matched with Amy when it comes to those all-important altercations. Less convincing is the inevitable spat between Dan and wife, with the anticipated fiery stand-off played at more of a tepid temperature.
The most compelling performance lands rightfully at the feet of Susie Amy’s Alex. It can’t be easy taking on the infamous “bunny boiler” role made famous by Glenn Close, but Amy gives a confident, human performance as the disturbed jilted lover. Her take on Alex is gentler by far compared with Close’s and seemingly more aware of the need to be more measured in contemporary depictions of mental illness. There’s enough resentment conjured towards Dan for us to direct some weighty sympathy in her direction – these darn married men straying and then whining when things get complicated and all that…
Director Loveday Ingram does well to update the narrative somewhat with effective nods to contemporary elements, but some of the choices here are genuinely puzzling. The famous, edge-of-seats, highly anticipated bunny boiler scene starts out promisingly enough but is ultimately rushed and feels thrown away with a semi-comedic squeal. In contrast, other scenes – usually involving a wounded Alex – are extended beyond their impact. Most problematic though is the false finish – misled by a clunky, delayed scene transition, the audience I was with collectively began to applaud a death rather than a finale, which takes us suddenly into a whole different genre…
Morgan Large’s set design, which dominates and often saves the production from moments of melodrama, is arguably the production highlight. Large establishes fragmented visuals across a swathe of screens (some of which retracting at intervals to reveal entrances or distant rooms) which successfully creates a sense of an increasingly warped reality. Mogzi’s projection designs also elevate the piece and serve to establish smooth setting shifts from muted basement bar to New York cityscape and leafy suburbs, but also to capture more complex impressions like a tense car journey or projecting phone screens as characters call one another.
Is this production engaging? Yes – with some impassioned performances and distinctive visuals, there’s certainly a good deal to like here. But is it the gripping thriller it seeks to be? Not quite – though probably still worth a visit for fans of the film, particularly as the ending deviates significantly, offering up an interesting alternative conclusion.
Fatal Attraction plays the Grand Theatre and Opera House, York until May 7th 2022 and you can find tickets here.
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