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23rd February 2022

Review: Fatal Attraction

Theatre Editor Jay Darcy reviews Fatal Attraction at Manchester Opera House, which is based on the film of the same name and stars Kym Marsh, Oliver Farnworth and Susie Amy
Review: Fatal Attraction
Photo: Tristram Kenton.

Fatal Attraction was good as a press night: a full house, a red carpet, and a return to normality after two years of liminality. Fatal Attraction as a play, however, was just that: fatal – and my attraction to the show (and the cast) blinded me to the reviews that warned me not to go.

The show’s cast is headed by popstar turned soap star Kym Marsh (Coronation Street, Hear’Say, Morning Live, The Syndicate) as the seductive Alex Forrest, the role made famous by Glenn Close in the film. The play’s central trio is completed by Oliver Farnworth (Coronation Street, Hollyoaks) as the sleazy Dan Gallagher and Susie Amy (Footballers’ Wives, Hollyoaks) as the sweet Beth Gallagher. Good casting, if not only because soap traitor Farnworth is torn between women from each of those soaps.

Now, they are all great actors – and I’d seen Farnworth in The Girl on the Train, so I knew he was good on stage – but they were let down by lousy writing. Marsh was great as Alex; she successfully combined sadism and sex appeal with bellowing breakdowns, but it’s hard to live up to the iconic portrayal that Close gave in the film. She also had the best American accent – albeit still flimsy – but that’s not saying much because Farnworth’s was hit-and-miss and Amy’s was entirely unconvincing.

I hate to say it, but Amy offered the weakest performance of the three – but that could be because of the way that the role was written. Amy is soon stepping into the role of Alex, when Marsh leaves the show, so hopefully she’s better as the ‘other woman’ than she is the ‘wife’. Louise Redknapp will be taking over the role of Beth; she was great in both Cabaret and 9 to 5, so if she too gives a mediocre performance of Beth, we know the writing is to blame.

The play’s first act was pretty boring – even the explicit sex scenes could not save it. I spent the majority of the first sex scene looking at the big group of people who arrived late, and by the second sex scene, I was struggling to keep my eyes open. The pace gradually picked up, and the second act was pretty wild – though that is not necessarily a good thing.

I also wasn’t a fan of the show’s metallic set (by this point, you’re wondering if I was a fan of anything, aren’t you?). I think it was supposed to represent the claustrophobia of living in New York City – relevant, given Beth’s desire to escape the city (and Dan’s need to escape Alex) – but it just looked a little cheap. The lighting and projections, too, didn’t quite have the sinister effect that the creatives wanted them too; it felt a little corny and cheesy. However, I liked how video calls were projected on to the walls.

That’s the thing about this play: as mediocre as it was, there were some nice moments. Even the silly script had some good one-liners that gained laughter from the audience. Fatal Attraction has potential, but it needs to be rewritten and redesigned – and maybe even recast.

I’ve never seen the film that the play is based on. I might have enjoyed the play more if I’d seen it; it’s undeniably iconic, so watching the play would probably have felt nostalgic – if nothing else.

I did get a sense that the play had been updated to make it a little less sexist, and this was confirmed by Jay Sky’s boyfriend, who told me that the play’s ending is very different to the film’s ending. It appeared to be an attempt to show that the blame does not lie entirely with Alex but Dan, too – you know, the person who is actually already in a relationship?

If you’ve seen the problematic film, the play’s changes might seem progressive, but as somebody who’s never seen it, I found the play to be pretty poor in its portrayal of women. Beth and Alex are polar opposites: the virgin and the whore; Mary, the mother, and Mary Magdalene (who was not actually a prostitute, might I add).

I was also disappointed that the play did not offer an examination of mental illness. Alex is not just some crazy, obsessive mistress; she’s quite clearly suffering from severe mental illness(es). She’s tortured, tormented, and victimised – both by mental illness and a charming, married man who treats her like a fleshlight. In a society that stresses the importance of mental health, you’d expect Fatal Attraction to better address mental illness. Perhaps the point is to show how mental illnesses are often ignored, and how people who suffer from them are stigmatised, but that didn’t work; by virtue of ignoring mental health, it vilified Alex.

Now, addressing Alex’s mental health would not be anything new: since the release of the film, Alex has been discussed by psychiatrists and film experts; she has been used as a film illustration for the condition borderline personality disorder. The play’s creatives had an abundance of academic, literary and psychiatric content on Alex to engage with, so it’s disappointing that they chose not to.

As mediocre as Fatal Attraction was, I’m glad I went to see it – if only because I met Strictly Come Dancing‘s Graziano Di Prima. However, I then realised that he’s actually working in my building. He stars on Morning Live (alongside Marsh), and I work at Studio Lambert, across the road from the Opera House – and I saw him there the following morning, surrounded by fans. Turns out, I didn’t have to go through the torture of watching Fatal Attraction to meet Graziano; I could have just bumped into him at work!

Now, I do like to remind my readers that I’m a brown-skinned, 22-year-old Politics graduate and theatre critic; I am, by no means, the target audience for a show like this. Whilst the show has received countless negative reviews from critics, that doesn’t have to put you off. We all like a little trash – whether it comes in the form of booze, burgers, or Fatal Attraction.

Fatal Attraction plays at Manchester Opera House until 26th February, before heading to Birmingham, which will be your last chance to see Marsh in the play. The play then continues its tour around the UK, with Amy taking over the lead role of Alex and Louise Redknapp joining the cast as Amy’s current character, Beth.

Jay Darcy

Jay Darcy

Theatre Editor. Instagram & Twitter: @jaydarcy7. Email: [email protected].

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