The Treatment review at the Almeida Theatre, London – ‘immaculately performed’
In this crisp revival of Martin Crimp’s 1993 play The Treatment characters frequently struggle to be understood.
In a lurid New York City Anne sells the story of how her husband ties her up and places tape over her mouth to two movie executives. They take the story, add a writer, a producer and suddenly Anne’s story is warped beyond recognition.
Crimp’s world – and Giles Cadle’s panelled set – is bare to the point of nihilism, and yet also stuffed with miscommunicated passion and blunt brutality. A ‘treatment’ becomes more than just a script’s first draft. It’s how humans treat each other.
Lyndsey Turner’s own treatment of the play is detached and clinical. Performances and text are exposed, the focus heavily on the words – on the impossibility of truth, especially when turned into a cultural product like a play or film. It’s a two hour apologia by Crimp for the obliqueness and obscurity of his writing.
Turner brings meticulousness even to the naturalistic snatches of overlapping dialogue. Neil Austin’s lighting washes each scene in one single colour, again underscoring the artifice of the whole play.
Aisling Loftus as Anne and Indira Varma as Jennifer both give stunning performances. Loftus is full of poise, and panic too, a bubbling fear at being in this huge city. Varma is at her best when sharp and dismissive.
The play is a satire on art made by artless people but also on the artificiality that’s suffused everyday life.
The Treatment doesn’t suffer from being 25 years old; in fact it feels depressingly fresh. One of the execs tells Anne that audiences want to return to memories “older, wiser, immaculately lit”. If ever there was a play writing its own review, this is it.