The Treatment, Almeida, review: ‘Crimp’s trademark abstraction really engages’

Matthew Needham (Simon) and Aisling Loftus (Anne) inThe Treatment. Picture: Marc Brenner

Matthew Needham (Simon) and Aisling Loftus (Anne) inThe Treatment. Picture: Marc Brenner - Credit: Archant

In this crisp revival of Martin Crimp’s bleak 1993 satire, director Lyndsey Turner hones in on the hypocrisies inherent in the Hollywood studio system

In this crisp revival of Martin Crimp’s bleak 1993 satire, director Lyndsey Turner hones in on the hypocrisies inherent in the Hollywood studio system and the players’ deceitful use of language with a forensic touch. While the dehumanising effect of the media has expanded since the explosion of the Internet, the production’s canny play on style - bolstered through Giles Cadle’s retro-inspired design - makes emotional detachment a key feature at every turn.

Out of multiple fragmented scenes, a dream-like story - or nightmare - unfolds. Poised Anne (Aisling Loftus) drifts into the office of vapid producers Andrew (Julian Ovenden) and Jennifer (an impressively glacial Indira Varma) with her tale of complicit domestic abuse. They enlist washed-up playwright Clifford (Ian Gelder) following an excruciating script meeting to make Anne’s story more real than reality.

Here, The Treatment applies as much to the way people treat one another as to the development of a script. Like Anne, Clifford’s emotional vulnerabilities are to be used and refashioned to try and give meaning to the filmmakers’ blank lives.

Crimp sounds out the warped impossibility of forcing life to become commercial cultural product through broken dialogue and troubling ellipses. Lurking in the background is Anne’s ex-husband, Simon (Matthew Needham), who wants to keep Anne a prisoner in their home, her mouth taped, to protect her from the baying cruelties beyond suburbia.


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Video footage of a cabbie’s point-of-view evokes Taxi Driver. Spare, teasing choreography layers in more of the surreal. The ensemble is exceptional. Gary Beadle revels in a demonic performance as star actor John. Loftus is ethereal and shatters like glass. Gelder is disturbingly credible as a self-justifying voyeur. The writing excels in scenes set in cocooned taxis with a blind driver steering his customers further into oblivion; then Crimp’s trademark abstraction really engages.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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