The Treatment (31st May 2017, Almeida Theatre)
As Rupert Goold notes, Crimp's play has become even more relevant in its twenty four years than one could expect. The Treatment follows the story of Anne, a vulnerable young woman who sells the story of her complicated abusive relationship to film producers, to whom her life experience is a commodity. The play questions ownership in an age in which everything is a product, as we witness Anne's autonomy drained from her, as "the city ends up affirming its own narrative over Anne"1. The production elements immediately encompass this feeling, as upon entering the theatre (and during blackouts), a view from within a taxi is projected onto the stage cloth. This view becomes more blurred as the Act goes on. As Anne loses her narrative over her own life, the audience loses its bearings within their own taxi journey - leading to a glorious ending in which the metaphor 'the blind leading the blind' is literally created on stage. Despite light relief, her horrendous treatment at the hands of the manipulative film producers is awful to witness, and although it is so ridiculous it becomes funny, it is also devastatingly believable in a world that values money over welfare.
It is well cast (except a wishy-washy Simon), particularly Indira Varma as an accomplished Jennifer (one half of the film producer couple). Her heels are as sharp as her personality, and she somehow asserts both aggressive power and naive fragility simultaneously. The production tightropes the fine line between power and vulnerability beautifully, never more clear than in its Japanese restaurant setting. Rich bold colours create a tranquil Asian utopia which alienates Anne in its 'otherness'. However in her absence it quickly rips at its seam, as Simon points out how the music is not Japanese, and the Brooklynite waitress knows nothing of the culture she is adorning herself with. The colour is visibly drained from restaurant in a cold icy blue. Even the city is a product, a thinly veiled attempt at 'culture' manipulating itself into something appealing to its inhabitants.
As script writers navigate Anne's story across the real/unreal boundaries, the audience grapple with the fact that we seek an 'authentic' experience, viewing truth as the ultimate narrative, yet we do so through theatre, an inherently ironic thought that Crimp highlights to us more than once. An outstanding production of a play which presents how the oppressive weight of commercialization is permeating modern life more by the day.
1. "Cities and Dreams", Vicky Angelaki (p. 7, The Treatment Programme)