When Fatal Attraction opened in cinemas in 1987, as well as spawning the term “bunny boiler” it generated multiple Oscar nominations and became that year’s biggest global hit, raking in more than $320 million.
More than three decades later, it’s on its way to stages up and down the UK (including Manchester Opera House, February 22-26 and York Grand Opera House, May 2-7) in its first stage adaptation and tour. Director Loveday Ingram promises: “It’s gripping and thrilling and a real emotional rollercoaster.”
Kym Marsh and Oliver Farnworth head the cast and the story remains true to that of the movie – New York lawyer Dan Gallagher’s fling with book editor Alex Forrest starts casually, but escalates with terrifying rapidity when she refuses to accept that it’s over.
But there are still some surprises: “It isn’t exactly the same as the film,” says Ingram, “and the outcome resolves in a different way.”
The director also believes Alex’s behaviour will be viewed differently now than it was in the 1980s: “Our attitude towards mental health has changed so much since 1987, and has moved towards emotional support. It’s inevitable people will look at the character of Alex in a different light.”
Writer James Dearden’s original screenplay inspired other psycho-sexual thrillers, such as the hugely successful Basic Instinct and critically-panned Sliver. But Fatal Attraction remains the genre’s most enduring story. Dearden has now adapted his film (in turn based on an earlier short film he wrote) for the stage.
“James’s adaptation is stunning,” Ingram says. “The dialogue is electrifying. He’s taken the heart of the film, stripped it back and put it on stage to great effect.”
Set in the present, the stage version features contemporary technology like mobile phones with projections of video calls.
“It’s about responsibility and trust and crossing the line," says Ingram. “To bring that to life in a way that works for contemporary audiences we’ve shifted it more towards the technology that we all use every day. Stalking and social media intrusion are all part of that.”
Do we still get the infamous bunny boiling scene? She laughs; “Now that would be giving it away, wouldn’t it?”
Former Coronation Street star Kym Marsh is relishing the chance to explore Alex: “She’s quite a complex character and playing her now is more interesting, I think,” says the Merseyside-born performer.
“She’s not just this psychotic woman. She’s got real issues and you can tell that she’s gone through something awful in her life. It’s interesting to dig around in that and look at her vulnerabilities.”
Is she daunted about following in Glenn Close’s shoes? “All I can do is my best with it and not copy her. But the play is slightly different. There are subtle differences and you hear more from Alex, about where she’s been.”
Kym hasn’t toured since appearing in Elf The Musical in 2019. “I’m excited about getting back out there and testing myself in front of a live audience,” she says.
Opposite her is Halifax-born Oliver Farnworth, whose last tour, The Girl on the Train, was also just pre-Covid in 2019. Oliver has played TV roles in Hollyoaks and Coronation Street as well as working extensively in theatre.
In the film, Dan Gallagher comes across as the victim of Alex’s obsessions, but Farnworth feels the play redresses that, because Alex is an independent single woman and it’s Dan who cheats on his wife and lies to cover up the affair: “It’s a more measured view,” he says.
But overall, both Kim and Oliver are very happy that touring theatre seems to be fully back: “It’s a fantastic play. It’s dramatic and sexy and at times chilling,” she says. “Plus, it’ll be so nice to just get out there in front of a live audience. I’m absolutely delighted to be getting back on stage and getting audiences back in.”