The Theatreguide.London Review
Almeida Theatre Spring 2017
Martin Crimp's new play is part Hollywood satire, part comment on the madness of big city life and part philosophical rumination on how much we own of our own stories or even our identities. And it is only partly successful.
The satire lacks wit or the naughty pleasure of being judgemental, and the New York City setting is not really made part of the play, as it might just as easily been set in Hollywood (and might have had sharper satire if it were).
Which leaves the speculations about self-ownership, which are interesting and original, though it takes the play a little too long to make them so.
A married team of Hollywood producers – the sort who put together a tentative package of story, writer and star and then look to someone else to make the movie – have advertised for people with true-life stories.
They've found Anne, a young housewife with a vague tale of being held captive, and a comic opening scene shows them trying to get her to change details in her account to sex it up and make it more movie-like.
The process continues when a big star comes aboard but wants his character of the villain made more sympathetic, and when a faded playwright wants to incorporate elements of a script he's already written.
It becomes clear that the eventual film will have very little resemblance to the true story. But then Crimp's vision gets really interesting as we begin to realize that Anne's 'true story', like all autobiographical tales, is itself something of a fiction, shaping whatever the reality was into memories she can live comfortably with.
When the truth may ultimately be unknowable, is the blatantly false Hollywood version really morally distinguishable from what Anne says happened? Near the end someone will comment that the actress playing Anne in the movie is 'more Anne than Anne is' and the line won't be just an anti-Hollywood joke.
That is the core of a potentially fascinating and engrossing play, though it takes Crimp a little too long to introduce the complicating factor of Anne's rewriting of her own story, and the easy pokes at Hollywood keep getting in the way.
There are also a lot of distracting loose ends. The writer's script seems in some way to comment on the producers' marriage, but unclearly. A blind cabdriver seems intended to carry some symbolic weight beyond only-in-New-York absurdity, but is not developed or integrated into the main action, nor are a couple of Shakespearean references.
There is a really good play hiding someplace inside The Treatment, though it sometimes seems as elusive as the truth about Anne, and your glimpses of it may be enough to make the evening worthwhile.
Director Lyndsey Turner sustains the cinematic flow of the script's jump-cutting short scenes, aided by Giles Cadle's flexible minimalist sets.
Aisling Loftus keeps Anne ultimately unknowable, but at the cost of letting her too frequently seem merely empty, while Indira Varma and Julian Ovenden as the producers make the most they can of roles written more as satiric types than individuals.
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