Review – Fatal Attraction, Theatre Royal Haymarket

Tuesday 25 March 2014

FA_015_M2S-PROMO-WEB-IMAGES_246pxw_x_379pxhIt’s all about the bunny, bunny, bunny…

Hard to believe it’s 27 years since the film Fatal Attraction left its indelible stamp in life’s lexicon with the term ‘bunny boiler’. And, unlike this story which dispatches the rabbit in Act 2, we shall dispense with it straight away.

Yes, we do see a live one. Cue cooing “Ahhhs” from the audience. A change from the occasional gasps as audience members who presumably hadn’t seen (or couldn’t remember) the film reacted to plot points. Then there was the rather inappropriate wolf-whistle when Mark Bazeley‘s errant husband Dan Gallagher appeared in his Calvins. Tsk. Couldn’t he/she get a seat for The Full Monty?

But back to that bunny. How did they do it? One minute it was there fidgeting around in its bunny basket a few feet from Phil’s eyes, then Dan’s daughter Ellen put her hand in the container and it had disappeared. Clever. Is Paul Daniels moonlighting as Ellen?

As much as that iconic bunny moment is anticipated, sadly, the moment is slightly thrown away. And so is the boiled bunny. Straight in the bin with the pot it’s been cooked in. What a waste of a rather gorgeously appointed piece of kitchenware.

Dan has a nearly perfect life living with his doting, terminally perky but drippy wife Beth (Sex and the City‘s Kristin Davis) and daughter in a comfortable New York apartment which, for some reason, sometimes has an extra wall with a bookcase and a front door and sometimes doesn’t. While Beth’s away house hunting (presumably for one with a permanent front door) upstate, Dan has a one/two-night stand with the gorgeously slinky, high-cheekboned Jemima Khan lookee likee Alex (Natascha McElhone) unaware that she’s a needy, calculating, dangerous psychotic. In her favour she has much nicer hair than Glenn Close’s scary perm and her loft apartment has a gleaming set of kitchen knives seeking gainful employment and phew, a full-time front door.

Cries of misogyny when the film was released, probably will be again and wasn’t is seen as a metaphor for AIDS at the time? It’s remarkable how certain moments from the film came flooding back, despite not having seen it since its original release.

McElhone does a decent job convincing us she’s crazed without overdoing things and employs an enjoyably chilling stare, though Phil would have liked his guignol a little grander. The excellent Bazeley narrates his tale of woe and while you can’t say he’s exactly breaking the fourth wall, he could well be looking for his second one; he displays all the necessary angst and regret of the huge mistake he’s made accepting this part.

Thankfully nobody bumps into the furniture. Quite remarkable really as there’s a lot of furniture to avoid. The frequent clunking scene changes, with sets heaved around and stagehands constantly humping furniture on and off is distracting and slows things down. Perhaps the overworked stagehands gave up on that occasional front door and bookcase. Rather perversely the Gallagher’s table isn’t occasional.

Amid all this scene-changing mayhem there’s also an extravagantly large cast of extras (no wonder Premium Seats are £93.50, that’s even more than for Dame Angela!) with little to do but scurry about all over the place, sometimes walking/jogging/dancing about the stage, engaging in fake conversations or appearing for no obvious reason other than to fill the void. They’re fascinating to watch and in moments of ennui engaging in the Spot The Understudy game provides a degree of satisfaction.

There’s music from, and several references to Madame Butterfly so we can convince ourselves we’re watching art rather than a hokey piece of schlock. Not that Phil can honestly say he has anything against hokey schlock.

One wonders why they bothered really. Transferring the film to the stage takes away more than it adds. Even though Trevor Nunn‘s production does manage fleeting moments of tension its grip is slightly arthritic.

SPOILER ALERT. If you think you know the film you may not know this ending. James Dearden‘s* stage version goes back, largely, to his somewhat more chilling original version that apparently didn’t go down too well at test screenings and had to be reshot. Certainly this new/old one is easier to stage. Don’t come expecting to see the bath tub; the stagehands were probably exhausted by this time and left it in the wings along with that front door.

*QI. Dearden’s brother-in-law is Mr Rebekah Brooks.



4 Responses to “Review – Fatal Attraction, Theatre Royal Haymarket”

  1. nikkimusingsandthoughts Says:

    The large cast of extras were the highlight for me ..sooo distracting and funny especially the nightclub scene

  2. vickster51 Says:

    Great review. I’m still debating whether to see this or not. I’m not sure it’s my cup of tea but curiosity may get the better of me if I can get a cheap seat!

  3. Sal Says:

    If you Google this news headline you may wonder whether Ms Jones finally read the Whingers’ review of her London extravaganza:

    “Sky’s the limit! Actress Shirley Jones plans to skydive for the first time to celebrate her 80th birthday”

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