Fatal Attraction – Royal and Derngate, Northampton

Reviewer: Kerrie Walters

Writer: James Dearden

Director: Loveday Ingram

Based on the Oscar-nominated classic film of the same name, James Dearden’s Fatal Attraction makes its way to the UK stage.

The story follows Dan Gallagher (Oliver Farnworth), a happily married New York attorney, who meets a charming and beautiful young woman, Alex (Susie Amy), on a night out. The two indulge in a night of passion before Dan returns to his family and attempts to carry on with his life. But this is one mistake that cannot be taken back. Whilst Dan attempts to forget his mistake, Alex has other ideas and Dan is about to discover that love can be a very dangerous game indeed.

Almost immediately, the audience is confronted with a strange juxtaposition as there has been some attempt to modernise the setting of the play with the use of mobile phones and video calls, however in terms of its treatment of women, the meat of the play is still very much in the 1980s. With crass jokes likeHey, maybe she will lose the baby … fingers crossed for you, there is a real issue of misogyny within the script.

Because of this juxtaposition, the modern references feel like an afterthought, in a play that would have worked perfectly well as a period piece. Phone calls are made in parenthesis and simultaneously projected onto the screens beyond for no other reason it would seem, than because they can.

Farnworth and Amy lead this show and do try hard to hit their marks. However, it must be said that there is a disconnect when it comes to chemistry which seems to be rooted in a lack of emotional engagement on their parts. Given that the premise of the entire narrative is that these two people have an intense physical attraction, resulting in a night of passion, sexual tension between the two leads is an essential component of the show. Unfortunately, it is a component that is entirely absent. The sex scene makes for uncomfortable viewing. There is a lot of heavy breathing, but Farnworth and Amy are clearly moving to hit certain marks on the stage and make no effort to hide it this badly put together movement sequence.

A lot of time and thought is afforded to giving truly authentic New York accents which is perhaps the reason that other performance aspects fall short. Even so, Farnworth’s accent is shouty and unconvincing which subsequently creates a barrier in terms of audience empathy.

The first meeting of Dan and Alex in the bar, which is unsubtly clad with snakeskins and images of neon vipers, relies heavily on the visual aesthetic of the projections and the Electro music by Paul Englishby, which does all the heavy lifting in terms of suspense building. Although Amy is charming in the earlier scenes, but the lack of chemistry been herself and Farnworth gives her nothing to bounce off. Often her behaviour comes across as random and the narrative arc hasn’t allowed for her to really build any kind of tension before exploding.

In the second act, much of the final confrontation scene is met with rumbles of awkward laughter mainly due to the floppy and clumsy fight. Paul Benzing’s fight choreography could work well but is executed as if this was a first rehearsal. As such, the climactic moment falls short.

Of course, the bunny boiling scene is so infamous it looms with expectation over the show. However, it is somewhat abortive as Alex creeps into the kitchen of Dan’s new home and it is met with unintended awkward laughter. This is the one scene where Louise Redknapp really gets an opportunity to prove she has the acting chops to carry a straight drama, but we get a lacklustre scream and little else as it is clear she has not emotionally connected with the script.

Whether the lack of chemistry is an issue with James Dearden’s book or because of poor direction by Loveday Ingram remains to be seen. Perhaps the story itself is of its time and simply doesn’t sit well with a 21st-century audience.

In practice, there is little in the way of dramatic suspense, the ensemble is largely superfluous, often appearing at random in a flash of light behind one of Morgan Large’s two-way projection screens. Whilst the set has been well designed and captures within it the feel of New York City, it feels like the set itself has been portioned too much of the burden of visual storytelling.

Large’s set would have indeed been functional and impressive if used in a different way, but this production is overly reliant upon projections to set the scene and frankly, it is distracting.

Whilst the show has all the ingredients to be an intense and riveting thriller, delivered by a celebrity cast on a slick, industrial, modern set, it has most definitely been underbaked.

Runs Until 2 April and on tour

The Reviews Hub Score

Superficially glossy with no suspense

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The Reviews Hub - Central

The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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