From screen to stage, Fatal Attraction does make a long journey, making it relevant to a 21st-century audience after its release on screen 35 years ago. Written by the original screenwriter James Dearden, directed by Loveday Ingram, the play is indeed “a psychological thriller” and “a cautionary tale” as described by Ingram and Dearden respectively.
The play opens suddenly with a swift shift in light and a suspenseful sound effect hushing a chatty audience and immediately demanding engagement. Dan Gallagher (Oliver Farnworth) is a lawyer, happily married to Beth Gallagher (Louise Redknapp). When Beth and Ellen (voiced by Charlotte Holden), their daughter, visit out of town, Dan’s casual drink with Alex Forrest (Susie Amy) at a recently opened bar turns into a one-night stand. What occurs thereafter rightly poses multiple questions about consent, accountability, truth and mental health. The play brilliantly exposes the grey areas in an illicit relationship with the main characters desiring completely opposing outcomes from the situation.
The opening scene sets the thriller tone of the play with the characters witnessing an unguarded Dan share his monologue, from behind a relatively translucent set. Dan breaks the fourth wall, a recurring pattern through the play, to share his inner monologue and reflect on his deeds. While this choice sometimes makes us pine for his side, the play constantly reminds us that actions have consequences. Bringing it to the present-day stage is successful with a range of tools. Projecting FaceTime conversations and voice messages on the set cleverly replaces the change in locations possible onscreen.
The ending is fully replaced by an alternate possibility, one that is effective in conveying the ambiguities and conflict of what is right and wrong. While the play’s rhythm generally complemented the narrative, some key moments could have garnered more time and emotional investment from the actors for the audience to completely cathart in the moment. Especially, the response from Redknapp when she encountered the boiling rabbit was short-lived. The suspense and gravity of the subject were well balanced by brilliantly timed humorous moments.
Farnworth portrayed a compelling character arch- from a rational lawyer to a helpless ‘family-man’ brought down to his knees by ‘fate’ as he confesses. The duality of his character becomes evident as we empathise with Beth who thinks Dan simply made those choices and fate had nothing to do with it- “actions have consequences.” Amy’s fine performance is displayed in the ‘fight’ scenes. Her character as ‘the other woman’ brings forth an ambivalence for her strong, determined will to have a married Dan and her vulnerable, lonely self.
Paul Benzing’s fight direction was on point. However, I would have liked more eye-contact between the protagonists in the first few scenes to establish the ‘fatal attraction.’ Their chemistry eventually brewed with the intimate scenes directed by Robbie Taylor Hunt. Redknapp as Beth and John Macaulay as Jimmy, Dan’s confidante steal the limelight even with their short presence on-stage. While Farnworth and Amy are stellar performers, I often missed tonal variety in their voices. Amy seemed to over-project her voice even in scenes that required a rather weak side of hers.
Morgan Large’s set design, the red tone of the bar, Amy’s house, and costume reflecting blood, passion, and seduction, brought cohesiveness to the multiple scenes in the play owing to its form on the screen. Jack Knowles’ timely red washes further enhanced the aesthetic appeal of the play. Carolyn Downing’s thrilling sound effects brought life to the production with its apt timing. Smooth and skilful technical support took this production to the next level.
Gripping, thrilling, thought-provoking, I would definitely recommend it to an audience like myself who has not watched the movie yet.
Fatal Attraction continues in Richmond until the 26th March, https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/fatal-attraction/richmond-theatre/
Reviewer: Khushboo Shah
Reviewed: 22nd March 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★