IT used to be common for popular books or plays to be adapted into films – now, it’s films being made into plays. In recent years we have had Billy Elliot, The Lion King, Hairspray and The Girl on the Train. Just last week, Bath had the disappointing stage version of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code stage adaption, and this week it’s Fatal Attraction.
Released 35 years ago (how time flies), it was the big boost for Glenn Close’s career, pitting her obsessed Alex against Michael Douglas’s married lawyer Dan. The immediately appealing prospect of this stage adaptation was that James Dearden had reworked his original and critically acclaimed script.
Indeed, he has reworked it to include his original ending. No spoilers (read the programme), but it is an important change, and one that gives a more contemporary bite to what otherwise might seem a slightly dated piece.
The theme is obsession to the point of madness. Dan, (Oliver Farnsworth), happily married to Beth (Susie Amy), drops into a trendy Manhattan bar to meet newly divorced friend Jimmy (John Macaulay). When Jimmy has to leave unexpectedly, Dan gets into conversation, then drinks, then dinner and ultimately bed with attractive Alex (Kym Marsh). He is undoubtedly drawn to her – in another life, he admits, they could have had a relationship. But he’s married, and his wife wants to move out of the city to beautiful Bedford Village and …
If you remember the film, you know how it goes. As Alex’s passion turns from that initial attraction to obsession, the tension ratchets up.
Is she a classic temptress, straight out of the average man’s seduction playbook? Well, no, not every attractive woman who enjoys a one-night stand is going to turn into a terrifying harpy.
Contemporary issues of consent, the MeToo movement and how society still demeans and stereotypifies women are all part of how a contemporary audience will see this story. Alex is not a tragic victim, she is not CioCio San, despite her love of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly – which is also Dan’s favourite opera.
Director Loveday Ingram has given the story a contemporary feel – clever use of mobile phones, for example – and makes brilliant use of a technically clever set, by Morgan Large. The pacing is powerful, the tension palpable and the acting is consistently strong and credible.
It’s a good old-fashioned melodrama in many ways, but it is a story that draws you inexorably towards a denouement that you may not see coming.