You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

West End Review: ‘Fatal Attraction’

James Dearden turns his own 1987 screenplay into a dreary, clunky stage drama laboriously helmed by Trevor Nunn.

Mark Bazeley, Natascha McElhone, Kristin Davis, Jane How, Sophia Petit, Nana Amoo-Gottfried, Hanna Bourne, Naomi Capron, Jonathan Forbes, Gerard Gilroy, Miranda Keeling, Harry Long, Stephen Omer, Angela Phinnimore, Michael Lee-Mackenzie, Kyle Ross.

The 1987 movie “Fatal Attraction” was called many things — psychological thriller, box office smash, misogynist trash — but no one described it as dreary. But that’s the word that best describes the slow grind of James Dearden’s clunky, feel-bad stage version of his own screenplay, laboriously helmed by Trevor Nunn. An unusually small percentage of the partisan opening-night crowd leapt to their feet at the curtain call; to suggest that the production will not cause a box office stampede is something of an understatement.

Dearden’s interesting motive for returning to the material was spelt out in his recent lengthy newspaper article, in which he let it be known that, following test screenings, the controversial movie ending was forced upon him by the studio. This stage version would, he suggested, redress that wrong and rebalance sympathies. If only.

“She’s trying to destroy me.” So cries pent-up Mark Bazeley in the Michael Douglas role of Dan, the married lawyer now desperately regretting his adulterous weekend with single white female Alex (Natascha McElhone). This strained sequence, which actually comes two-thirds of the way through the infamous plot, is used to open the show in an attempt to up the dramatic stakes. From there, everything flashes back to the beginning of the otherwise chronologically told tale.

Instead of reimagining the material into new theatrical shape, Dearden mostly follows the trajectory of his screenplay. Dull, evenly paced expository scenes, which merely parcel out pieces of information and character (his work colleague = sympathetic, his daughter = cute), are interspersed with doomy bass sound effects and portentous chunks of Dan’s voiceover and downstage addresses to the audience as Robert Jones’ neat, sleek sets are changed behind him. The aim is for Raymond Chandler-style, hard-bitten wisdom, but lines like “We all think we’re masters of our destiny but it’s really all a crapshoot “ or “Hate and fear: We only really hate what we fear” fall short.

Updating the story to the present adds stalking via cell phone, but having characters speak to technology rather than to each other only further deflates the atmosphere. Out, too, go the unstageable action sequences — including, oddly, the high-octane sex. Nunn clearly wants details of their hot couplings to ferment in his audiences’ imaginations, but deprived of everything but a glimpse of the passion that coursed between them, it’s hard to sympathize with either character’s behavior. And since we don’t care about them, the evening is leeched of tension.

Dearden adds welcome self-laceration to Dan’s monologues, but this doesn’t solve the overwhelming misogyny problem. McElhone’s Alex teases and stalks her prey with panther-like pawing of her territory, but her escalating, absurd demands remain deranged.

Even the long-awaited bunny-boiling scene is bungled. Dan’s daughter (Sophia Petit, at the performance reviewed) immediately screams in terror (why?) when she sees her brand-new pet rabbit is not in its cage. Almost simultaneously, Kristin Davis screams as she opens the boiling saucepan. The split focus smudges what should be a climax. Equally oddly for so experienced a team, the fight direction of what should be the explosive final tussle between Alex and Dan is, aside from the first well-timed face slap, physically unconvincing.

The movie climax had Dan’s wife Beth shooting Alex dead. That’s now gone, leaving Kristin Davis little to do in her U.K. stage debut but play mother, be meek and misled. In its place comes a long-term piece of revenge by Alex which elicits some very poorly directed police procedural scenes and an overworked staging of Alex’s love of “Madama Butterfly.” The latter is a vainglorious attempt at tragedy that, like the rest of this high-profile, low-achieving evening, falls far short of drama.

Popular on Variety

West End Review: 'Fatal Attraction'

Theater Royal Haymarket, London; 898 seats; £65 ($108). Opened, reviewed March 25, 2014. Running time: 2 HOURS, 30 MIN.

Production: A TRH Prods., Robert Fox and Patrick Ryecart presentation of a play in two acts by James Dearden based on the Paramount Pictures Corp. motion picture.

Creative: Directed by Trevor Nunn. Sets and costumes, Robert Jones; lighting, Paul Pyant; sound, Paul Groothuis, Ed Clarke; production stage manager, Michael Conlon.

Cast: Mark Bazeley, Natascha McElhone, Kristin Davis, Jane How, Sophia Petit, Nana Amoo-Gottfried, Hanna Bourne, Naomi Capron, Jonathan Forbes, Gerard Gilroy, Miranda Keeling, Harry Long, Stephen Omer, Angela Phinnimore, Michael Lee-Mackenzie, Kyle Ross.

More Legit

  • Broadway-Breakfast-Split

    Variety to Celebrate Second Business of Broadway Breakfast With Thomas Schumacher, Diane Paulus and Diablo Cody

    Variety has announced the lineup for its second annual Business of Broadway breakfast presented by City National Bank. Joining the breakfast on Oct. 7 is the president and producer of Disney Theatrical Productions Thomas Schumacher, who will take part in the event’s keynote conversation. In his position, Thomas oversees the company’s worldwide stage productions, which [...]

  • Sue Wagner John Johnson

    Tony-Winning Producers Sue Wagner and John Johnson Announce New Venture, Wagner Johnson Productions

    Sue Wagner and John Johnson, seven-time Tony award-winning producers, announced Wednesday that they have embarked on a new theatrical business venture, Wagner Johnson Productions. Under the name, they will produce and general manage a wide scope of theater productions. One of Wagner Johnson Productions’ current projects is a musical rendition of “Almost Famous,” which will [...]

  • Sam Rockwell and Laurence Fishburne

    Sam Rockwell, Laurence Fishburne Starring in Broadway Revival of 'American Buffalo'

    Laurence Fishburne and Sam Rockwell will star in an upcoming Broadway revival of David Mamet’s “American Buffalo.” The show marks Rockwell’s first appearance on the Great White Way since his 2014 performance in the revival of Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love.” The five-year absence saw him pick up an Oscar for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, [...]

  • Secret Derren Brown review

    Broadway Review: 'Derren Brown: Secret'

    Audiences love to be fooled, whether it’s with clever plotting with a twist, the arrival of an unexpected character or even a charming flimflam man with a British accent. The latter is Derren Brown, and he’s entertaining audiences for a limited run at the Cort Theatre, where he is playing head-scratching mind games and other [...]

  • Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica ParkerNew York

    Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker to Reunite on Broadway for 'Plaza Suite'

    Real-life couple Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker are hitting the Broadway stage again for a reboot of the late Neil Simon’s 1968 play “Plaza Suite.” The staging will mark the Broadway directorial debut of Tony award-winner John Benjamin Hickey. Set in New York City’s Plaza Hotel in Suite 719, “Plaza Suite” is comprised of [...]

  • Derren Brown

    Listen: Derren Brown Spills His Broadway 'Secret'

    Derren Brown has spent a lot of his career performing magic shows on theater stages — but he’ll be the first to tell you that magic usually doesn’t make for great theater. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “If you’re a magician of any sort, you can make stuff happen with a click of your [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content