Review of The Treatment by Martin Crimp at the Almeida Theatre
Martin Crimp was definitely ahead of his time when his play The Treatment first premiered at the Royal Court in 1993: not just in his jagged, fragmentary yet precise storytelling that nowadays feels utterly naturalistic, but also in its portrait of the commodification of lives and how (non-creative) artists like film producers go about turning those stories into the stuff of commerce.
An unsettling strangeness permeates this play, set against the urban backdrop of an anonymised New York, where a young woman Anne (Aisling Loftus) comes to tell her story of possible marital abuse to a couple of married film producers Andrew and Jennifer (Julian Ovenden and Idira Varma), and how it gets re-fashioned by one-time Broadway playwright Clifford (Iain Gelder) and actor/producer John (Gary Beadle) into something else.
Director Lyndsey Turner provides a production to match and even amplify the play's eerie sense of dislocation. Blurry images of a New York cab making its way through the city punctuate scenes; its no surprise when, in one of the play's more bizarre juxtapositions, the cab driver (Ben Onwukwe) turns out to be blind.
But if that makes no logical sense, the play is a constant provocation on established ideas. It's not always easy to digest, but Giles Cadle's swiftly changing sets are a joy to watch, and so are the finely-tuned performances of the ensemble cast that bring total commitment to it.