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Stuart King

Review: THE TREATMENT at the Almeida

The Treatment "It's a mindfuck, Clifford", states one of the characters in Martin Crimp's play THE TREATMENT (first staged at The Royal Court in 1993) which is being given a new outing at the Almeida under the direction of Lyndsey Turner, who’s brought something of a midas touch to several successful productions in recent years.

However, the play remains a muddled and overpowering mindfuck for both Clifford and indeed, most of the audience. Quite what hidden merits Turner identified in the script to justify this revival remains a mystery. Perhaps it was recent media interest in mental health.

We discover a young woman, Anne (played with thoughtful composure by Aisling Loftus) in the office of a husband and wife who are talking through her ideas for a book/play/film (the treatment of the title). Evidently the story she is recounting is based on seemingly harrowing personal experience, but every line is subject to the more fanciful interjections of the irritatingly self-absorbed Jennifer (stylishly played by Indira Verma) Andrew (Julian Ovenden) and the smug know-it-all, John, whose star status gives him way too much power (Gary Beadle - something of a stalwart of the quality fringe venues of late, and on typically good form) Ian Gelder plays a desperate playwright who’s been previously chewed up and spat out by the ruthless literary exploitation Crimp portrays.

The trouble is things are taken to such extremes that it’s never a very believable portrayal. There is a viciously gratuitous blinding scene with a fork; some pathetically underwhelming and under-explained bondage; a couple of moderately amusing restaurant moments (which resulted in audible audience appreciation - especially the line in which Sashimi is first described as an art form and then unpretentious) Some slick free-dance by Arthur Pita rekindles viewer's enthusiasm after the interval.

The Almeida employs 15 members of a 30-strong Community Company at each performance. As the programme puts it: "citizen deepen the world of the play". Much as I applaud the undoubtedly commendable intentions of this initiative, the results were dire on the night I attended. The enthusiastic amateurs distractingly milked their moments, missed their cues and fussed with props amidst the swirling video footage and verbose dialogue.

Ultimately this muddled and extreme perspective on the casual cruelty of the film industry and literary life in New York left me cold.