REVIEW: Fatal Attraction, Grand Opera House, York, until Saturday ***

That clinches it: Susie Amy’s Alex Forrest and Oliver Farnwoth’s Dan Gallagher in Fatal Attraction. Picture: Tristram Kenton

Fatal Attraction, by James Dearden, Grand Opera House, York, 7.30pm tonight; 2.30pm, 7.30pm, Saturday. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets/York

JAMES Dearden revisits his script for Adrian Lyne’s “bunny boiler” movie, the Paramount Pictures psychological thriller where it was fatal to get too close to Glenn Close’s Alex Forrest.

Dearden does not merely plonk it on stage. Instead, he moves it forward from 1987 to today’s world of #MeToo, greater awareness of mental health, all-pervasive technology (constantly name-checked to prove the point), but where men’s entitled behaviour has not changed.

He tells the same story with better balance but, frustratingly, not better dialogue in climactic scenes, brought to stage life with directorial swagger by Loveday Ingram, an outstanding, hi-tech set design by Morgan Large and projections by Mogzi.

Then add the box-office magnet of a celebrity cast of a Footballers’ Wives goddess (Susie Amy), a soap star (Oliver Farnworth, from Coronation Street and Hollyoaks) and a girl group favourite and Strictly runner-up (Eternal’s Louise Redknapp), each assuming a generic American accent that largely stays that side of the Pond.

They are not playing to big houses, suggesting Fatal Attraction may have lost its sex-sells allure since 1987 or lacks sufficient curiosity value in its transfer to the stage, or has been consigned to the past like so many DVDs and videos at a car boot sale.

Nevertheless, Dearden, Ingram, the production team and cast, sound designer Carolyn Downing and composer Paul Englishby have committed wholly to justifying its return. Dearden even comes up with a Sliding Doors coda, a little awkwardly delivered but worth it all the same.

If Fatal Attraction has slipped from memory or never been a Close encounter of the psycho kind for you, here is a quick refresher course. Farnworth’s Dan Gallagher – a happily married New York attorney with a daughter (unseen, voiced by Charlotte Holden) – narrates the torrid tale of his two-night stand with Amy’s Alex Forrest, the mysterious woman at the basement bar he “befriends”.

Wife Beth (Redknapp) is away in the country for the weekend, and as the drinks clink, the strangers click, Downing’s sound design pounds away, and soon Dan and Alex are too, with every last theatre light turned off. Sound and vision work to best effect here.

Dan might think everything can be washed away with a change of shirt, the fling flung, the dirty deed done, but Alex has other ideas. If there are rules, you play by hers, and here is a woman scorned. A woman, too, whose carapace of confidence in the bar turns out to be fragile, a front to cover loneliness.

Louise Redknapp’s Beth Gallagher in Fatal Attraction. Picture: Tristram Kenton

Alex still goes down the bunny boiler path, but Dearden refracts her actions through the prism of our better understanding of mental illness, and the assured Amy has switched impressively from playing Beth in the tour’s first leg to bringing a more rounded humanity to the deeply troubled Alex, her more considered interpretation having none of the Hollywood histrionics of Close.

Farnworth never quite shakes off being an Englishman playing a New York American, but he captures the oily charm but nonchalant arrogance and misogynism of the smart but outsmarted lawyer.

Who is the victim here? Mentally wounded, self-harming, jilted Alex? Dan, who took a chance that backfired? Or Redknapp’s wronged wife, Beth, who had given up her better-paid job to dedicate herself to husband, child and nest-building, making pasta sauce for Dan before heading up country?

The answer is all three in Dearden’s 2022 version, although he has written the cut-and-thrust scenes for Alex and Dan rather better than those for Dan and demure Beth, especially the far-too-rushed confession and confrontation over his infidelity.

Heat and tension, and later exhaustion, rise from Alex and Dan’s encounters. By contrast, Beth’s hurt is under-powered, unconvincingly reduced to being too reliant on a few expletives as if one eye were on the running time. She deserved better, not just in her husband, but in that let-down of a melodramatic climactic scene.

Put that one down to Dearden but Ingram’s direction errs in the tone of the bunny boiler set-piece, set up deliciously, even with a hint of knowing mischief, only to go off the boil and fizzle out into unintentional comedy. Not for the only time, the pacing is not right – even in the tour’s last week – and momentum is stalled.

Consistently excellent, however, is Large’s set design, one that enables a slick transfer of locations through a fusion of multiple screens and a box-of-tricks structure that allows for furniture to emerge, entrances to be created. Then call on Mogzi’s projections to conjure all manner of imagery, internal, external, urban and upstate, most spectacularly a speeding car heading out of control.

To further emphasise the 21st century refurb, mobile phonecalls and video calls are relayed on those screens too. The overall effect of this deliberate visual overload is to mess around with your head, just as Dan and Alex are doing to each other, all the while blurring and twisting reality beyond Dan’s narrative control.

Fatal Attraction, the stage play, is the proverbial curate’s egg: direction hit and miss; design top drawer; performances enjoyable; the writing alive to a changed world but sometimes misfiring, not least an overworked “Tired of London/Tired of New York” simile.

Yet everything ultimately boils down to whether it works as a psychological thriller, one that gets you both hot and bothered, shocks and surprises you, and while it comes within a knife’s length of doing so, in the big moments, the ones that really matter, it falls tantalisingly short.  

How Susie Amy switched from wife Beth to ‘jilted psycho’ Alex in Fatal Attraction

On a knife edge: Susie Amy’s Alex Forrest reaches boiling point in Fatal Attraction. Picture: Tristram Kenton

FIRST Susie Amy played the cheated wife’s role in the 2022 theatre tour of James Dearden’s Fatal Attraction.

Now, for the second leg, she has switched from Beth to “the other woman”, the Hitchcockian bunny boiler Alex Forrest, still playing opposite Coronation Street soap star favourite Oliver Farnworth, but now joined by Eternal singer, television presenter, actress, 2016 Strictly Come Dancing runner-up and fashion influencer Louise Redknapp  as the tour rolls into York next Tuesday for its final week at the Grand Opera House.

“I played Beth for eight weeks from January, and it was great playing her with Kym Marsh as Alex,” says Susie. “But the way it’s worked out, it’s been nice to have the rare chance to play both female leads in the same play and see things from different perspectives – and I’ve really enjoyed working with Louise too.”

The changeover could not have been quicker. “I finished on the Saturday as Beth and started as Alex the next Tuesday after rehearsing the role while playing Beth in the evening,” she says.

The poster for the first leg of the Fatal Attraction tour when Susie Amy, left, played wife Beth, with Kym Marsh as Alex Forrest and Oliver Farnworth as attorney husband Dan Gallagher

“I only had the odd couple of hours here and there, but I did a lot of work on my own with Rachel Heyburn, our assistant director, and I knew the project very well by then, knowing the feel of the piece.”

A household name since her sparkling days as glamour model Chardonnay Lane-Pascoe in ITV’s trashy hit melodrama Footballers’ Wives from 2002 to 2004, Susie, 41, joined the Fatal Attraction cast for the stage resurrection of an American psychological thriller never forgotten from Adrian Lyne’s 1987 movie, the one with Michael Douglas, Glenn Close and Anne Archer.  

Beth, you may recall, is the wife of New York attorney Dan Gallagher (Farnworth), their marriage ever so happy until he meets hotshot editor Alex Forrest on a night out that ends up in enflamed passion. Dan returns home, tries to forget his “mistake”, but Alex has different ideas. She has one rule: you play fair with her, and she’ll play fair with you.

So far, so familiar, from Dearden’s original film screenplay, but the tour is presenting his new stage version of a stylish, sinister, steamy thriller that asks: what happens when desire becomes deadly?

The poster for Fatal Attraction’s run at the Grand Opera House, York, with Susie Amy, right, now playing Alex

“The film was set in 1987; the play is set today with mobile phones,” says Susie. “The writer has been in the rehearsal room, sharing his vision with us, honouring the original but modernising it too, which is important because we think so differently now.

“Whereas Alex would have been called a ‘bunny boiler’ back then, now there’s more emphasis on understanding mental health, so though it’s the same story, now we look at things differently, especially in relation to mental wellbeing.

“Now, we relate more to Alex’s desperate loneliness. Here, a man has come along and shown her interest that she’s really bought into, before he goes back into his family world, and she can’t accept that.”

Alex is placed in a difficult situation, says Susie. “Dan has gone back to the people he’s fairly happy with, and that has left Alex unhappy, which is a not-unfamiliar position – and now we see her side of the story through the eyes of having a better awareness of mental health issues.

“Dan is arrogant. His wife has quit her better-paid job to look after their children, and he’s used to getting his way. Though he genuinely connects with Alex, he wants to forget her, hoping she will never see him again.

“Whereas Alex would have been called a ‘bunny boiler’ back then, now there’s more emphasis on understanding mental health,” says Susie Amy

“He doesn’t treat Alex well but, at the same time, you shouldn’t stalk someone, though Dan should not have given false hope to her, and Beth ends up very much betrayed. Beth had really trusted him in a relationship where she thought they respected each other.”

By contrast with the “bunny boiler” jibes thrown at Alex in the film, theatre audiences have been giving Susie’s 2022 Alex a fairer hearing. “To be honest, it’s nice to be getting a mixed reaction, because it’s normal for people to think differently; some people have sympathy for Dan, some for Beth, some for Alex,” she says. “Maybe it all depends on our own experiences in life.

“Then you also have to consider that there are some people who have never seen the film, mostly young people, and they may look at it differently to how people did in 1987.”

Putting Susie on the spot, does she prefer playing Beth or Alex? “Alex,” she says. “Just because, as an actor, it’s a such a great rollercoaster of a ride every performance, playing this independent, sassy, sexy woman, who would catch a man’s eye in a really empowered way, but as the play progresses, her mental health fails her and she starts to turn.”

Fatal Attraction boils over at Grand Opera House, York, May 3 to 7, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm matinees, Wednesday and Saturday. Box office: or on 0844 871 7615.

Copyright of The Press, York

That fatal moment in Fatal Attraction: Lift-off for Susie Amy’s Alex Forrest and Oliver Farnworth’s Dan Gallagher. Picture: Tristram Kenton