If ever there was a cautionary tale about the repercussions of adultery then Fatal Attraction is definitely at the top of the list. As one of the most iconic movies of the late 80s, it was the film that introduced us to the term “bunny boiler” and taught countless men that Hell really hath no fury like a woman scorned.
I remember sitting on the edge of my seat when it launched in cinemas, watching through my fingers as hot-shot lawyer Dan Gallagher embarked on a night of passion with the seductive Alex Forrest. So I was fascinated to see how it would play out on the stage, and while James Dearden’s provocative production is intoxicating, I wasn’t convinced it rivalled its big screen counterpart. The fight scenes, for example, look too choreographed and awkward, some of the most dramatic moments are a little lost and the American accents jar at times.
Having said that, there is still much to enjoy. Kym Marsh, in the role made famous by Glenn Close, is sexy, feisty and believable, and, as the play moves in the second half, her vulnerability becomes almost palpable. Interestingly, when the film was first released, there was little sympathy for the leading lady. At the time she was considered unhinged; now more than 35 years later, the #MeToo movement has challenged us to rethink sexual obsession and human weakness. Our better understanding of mental illness and how powerful, misogynistic men have historically treated women allows the audience to watch with better educated eyes and Marsh carves out a performance that has us rooting for her rather than ridiculing her.
The sexual tension between her and Oliver Farnworth as Dan is convincing to watch; from their first encounter in a bar – complete with a post-Covid fist-bump – to their lust-filled weekend, beautifully interspersed with arias from Madame Butterfly. The stage is simple yet effective with the projected backdrops updating 80s New York to the modern day with looming video calls.
Fatal Attraction explores how we regard trust, infidelity and accountability – as Dan refusing to take responsibility for his part in the affair he tells a fragile Alex “You knew the rules.” Rather satisfyingly, later in the play his wife Beth (Susie Amy) reminds him that “actions have consequences.” Talking of consequences leads me neatly to the most famous scene of the whole production. I’d wager, given the average age of the audience at The Alex, that we knew what was on the cards as the the arrival of the family pet rabbit brought a wave of knowing titters and intakes of breath … no spoilers if you’ve never seen it before.
Fatal Attraction runs at Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre until Saturday March 5. For tickets and more information click here.