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Theatre review: Aisling Loftus shines as bondage girl in nightmare vision of Tinseltown

REVIEW

The Treatment

Almeida
★★★✩✩

IRISH actress and Mr Selfridge star Aisling Loftus takes a turn towards the dark with her role in Lyndsey Turner’s revival of Martin Crimp’s 1993 satire on the movie industry.

She plays Anne, a woman whose husband has kept her tied up with tape across her mouth in their New York apartment and who, when we meet her, is telling her story to two film execs — Indira Varma’s fabulously bitchy studio boss Jennifer and her husband Andrew, played with deceptive smoothness by Julian Ovenden.

Yet in an industry where sexualised narratives about abused women signify paydirt, Anne has no hope of retaining control over her story.

Crimp’s play is at odds with the exploitative storytelling it satirises, in which female characters are robbed of complexity and their bodies packaged up and sold.

Much defies easy resolution, veering between savage satire and lurid symbolism. Its characters include a blind taxi driver and a script writer who has his eyes gouged out.

Loftus’s eerily unknowable, glass-brittle Anne remains an enigma, resisting all attempts to understand her relationship with her husband, played by Matthew Needham.

This is a better production than it is play. Crimp’s points about a cannibalistic, voyeuristic media industry lack, these days, the power of revelation.

Yet Turner’s atmospheric revival ensures his portrait of a city consumed by paranoia and a surreal form of madness still feels on the money. Worth seeing.