Review Round-Ups

Verdicts in on Nunn's Fatal Attraction

Trevor Nunn’s latest screen-to-stage production features a cast led by Kristin Davis, Natascha McElhone and Mark Bazeley

Mark Bazeley and Kristin Davis in Fatal Attraction
Mark Bazeley and Kristin Davis in Fatal Attraction

©Tristram Kenton

Michael Coveney

Oh dear. If there was any good news about this clunky stage version of a classic 1987 movie thriller I'd start with it… Extras wander around like drama students playing musical chairs… Natascha McElhone as Alex Forrest, the borderline psychotic who's tragically clawing at Dan as a lifeline partner, meets him in Central Park with blood red hands from the previous wrist-cutting scene, like Lady Macbeth in a power suit… the powerful drive in the film and Michael Douglas' performance is an overwhelming sense of imminent loss of everything he values… You'd have thought that a man of Nunn's creative genius would appreciate the different rhythms and needs of stage and screen. But he just follows the screenplay, too closely… Instead of heart-wrenching desperation we get a lot of shouting and a few weak amendments to Dan's perfectly reasonable caveats… there's nothing interesting or sympathetic about these characters who inhabit some under-imagined theatrical limbo…

Charles Spencer
Daily Telegraph

…the programme reassures the audience that "No bunnies have been harmed during the rehearsal or production of Fatal Attraction". Enjoy that modest joke as you settle down for a harrowing evening – it is about the only laugh in the show apart from the occasional titter brought on by nervous tension… There is clever use of photographic montage to suggest a wide variety of New York locations, and the cast perform their roles with some panache. But though some of the changes to the film may intrigue or infuriate Fatal Attraction obsessives, and the new final twist is undoubtedly ingenious… Mark Bazeley powerfully captures the corrosive mixture of guilt and fear as Dan Gallagher, but you can't help feeling that if only he had confessed to his wife (a yummy mummy Kristin Davis) and gone to the police as soon as matters got out of hand, all this trouble would have been avoided. There would have been no film, of course, and no play either, but personally I could happily live without either of them.

Paul Taylor

… this worthier, more equivocal stage drama left me feeling weirdly detached throughout. With a glossy blue-neon design by Robert Jones, the proceedings have been updated to the present day, though too little is made of how advances in technology – email, texts, messaging – have widened a stalker's scope for inflicting torture. There's an ideological shift, too. Mark Bazeley is a lean, handsome Dan, who here gives a running narrative commentary on his own fateful story, but the script and the actor's fine performance produce a reverse-effect to the one in movie… the play wants us to feel conflicted about Alex… Natascha McElhone is obliged to oscillate between bouts of charming, humorous rationality; vindictive ruthlessness; and pathological need. Perhaps understandably, the resulting performance feels bitty and mechanical… 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…

Michael Billington

…even though James Dearden has made some adjustments to his 1987 script for Fatal Attraction, it remains an essentially hollow experience… One is left with a dizzying succession of short scenes that, in Trevor Nunn's production… although Robert Jones' designs lend the show a mechanical efficiency, no scene lasts long enough to make an emotional impact…The actors do all they can within the script's limits. Mark Bazeley as Dan conveys the man's escalating panic and self-loathing. Natascha McElhone makes Alex a softer and more initially hesitant figure than Glenn Close in the movie but lacks the backstory to illuminate her descent into borderline psychosis. And Kristin Davis, in the underwritten role of Dan's wife, is left trying to make bricks without straw. Dearden's script doesn't do enough to reimagine the movie. A film that was at least a brutally effective psychological thriller has become a modern morality-play that simply confirms the dismal truth of Arthur Hugh Clough's poetic couplet: "Do not adultery commit, Advantage rarely comes of it."

Dominic Maxwell
The Times

What a shocker: Trevor Nunn‘s stage version of Fatal Attraction is a bad idea, poorly executed… Dearden has changed all too little. He follows the original trajectory pretty much scene by scene, almost line by line. And Nunn, one of our greatest directors, has simply plonked it all on stage without suggesting that he has found a theatrical language for it all… It’s not that they are acting badly, more that this is all just looks such a literal attempt to put a film on stage… It’s amateurish. When we go outside, Robert Jones’ design gives us photographed backdrops. When Mark is supposedly offstage climbing up the stairs to Alex’s loft, it sounds like a Goon Show sound-effect. It’s risible. Add to that tame sex and clumsy violence and you just wonder who thought this was good enough.

Quentin Letts
Daily Mail

…this new stage version is decently acted and coolly staged – I hated almost every minute of it. What a horrible, heartless story. I say this aware that fans of psychological suspense will thrill to this show. I know it must look feeble for a theatre critic to recoil from a story which evidently grips. Yet recoil I do, though it is told with skill… One of the drawbacks to this play is its mundane language. There is a surfeit of cliche. Playwright James Dearden being English, I wonder if it might have been more interesting if written for London characters… Throughout I writhed with discomfort. My toenails curled like fern fronds. This was not from any sense of guilt, let me stress… Fatal Attraction is clever. It will do well. It may even be a great caution to straying dogs to be faithful to their wives. The bunny scene is classic horror. All this I can see. But where is the justice? For Fatal Attraction is Dr Faustus with a family. Don, by committing adultery, enters a pact – and his family suffer. Where is the morality in that?

Henry Hitchings
Evening Standard

Screen-to-stage adaptations are big business but they often feel hollow and pointless. This expensive confection is a prime example, never eclipsing the memory of the absorbing and unpleasant Eighties film on which it’s based… This is a vision of obsession and revenge, and naturally the immortal bunny-boiling scene is retained – executed tactfully though far from shockingly. Natascha McElhone‘s Alex is elegant and enigmatic, with a smile that suggests a mix of charm, duplicity and angst. Kristin Davis never really has enough to do, but brings a sunny warmth to Beth and captures the fretfulness that lies behind her wholesome exterior. It’s Mark Bazeley as Dan who makes the strongest impression – convincing as both seducer and tormented soul. Yet the film’s passion is missing… the stage is often cluttered with extras who contribute little except distraction. Trevor Nunn‘s production is glossy, with a stylish design by Robert Jones. Yet the project at no point feels like a good idea.