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The Theatreguide.London Review

Fatal Attraction
Haymarket Theatre       Spring 2014

For this stage version of his 1987 blockbuster film, screenwriter James Deardon has gone back to his original vision, erasing the hero-softening and crowd-pleasing changes Hollywood forced on him. 

The result differs in subtle ways from the film, but about as much as a typical 'director's cut' does, which is to say not enough to matter all that much. 

As in the film, a happily married man gives in to the spur-of-the-moment temptation to have a weekend fling with an attractive woman. But she is unwilling to let it end there, pursuing, stalking and ultimately attacking him and his family in an insane attempt to get him back. 

There appear to be three major changes from film to stage. One is the ending, which I won't tell you about except to say it's darker. 

The second is structural, making the man the direct-to-audience narrator of his story. This device is clumsy at best, and worse because it leads writer Deardon to such clunky prose as 'I keep turning it over in my mind. Was I looking for it [trouble] on some subconscious level?' and 'It was an accident waiting to happen'.

Actor Mark Bazeley can't really do much with lines like that but spit them out with the air of hoping we haven't actually heard them. 

The most interesting of the changes is a softening of the other woman, who the author, director Trevor Nunn and actress Natascha McElhone introduce as much more fragile than in the film. 

She's still barking mad, but in a more pathetic than demonic way, at least at the start, and while she does eventually turn into a witch she still carries wisps of our sympathy with her. 

To underline that, with no pretence at subtlety, the playwright makes Madame Butterfly her favourite music, and chunks of the opera are blasted at us at regular intervals just in case we haven't got the point that she feels betrayed and abandoned. 

The play flows along smoothly, director Nunn and designer Robert Jones using a series of moving panels to take us through its cinematic string of short scenes, and Kristin Davis as the man's wife and Alex Lowe as his friend do what they can to serve in thankless roles. 

Who is the audience for a show like this? Tourists who know they're supposed to go to the theatre at least once when they're in London, have already seen Phantom and Les Mis, and are looking for something that won't strain or bore them too much. 

They'll get what they're looking for, a safe and predictable evening with just enough difference from the movie they remember to give them something to talk about afterwards.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Fatal Attraction - Haymarket Theatre 2014
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