If there’s a topic sought after in theatre right now, it would most likely be mental health and how we deal with it. Lucy Prebble’s The Effect addresses this from a more medical perspective, set within a drug trial testing a new antidepressant with fantastic characters played well by the cast of four.
Characters appear completely natural and their emotional reactions are immaculate, making for an stimulating performance
Upon meeting Tristan (Nick Farr) and Connie (Keziah Hall), two individuals from diverse backgrounds, we detect an instant attraction. Starting off light and enjoyable to watch, their encounters begin to take a darker turn as the dosage increases and their feelings intensify.
At first, Farr’s performance as Tristan is slightly overacted and unrealistic, although this dissolves in the next scene. Arguably one of the most difficult roles in the play due to the unpredictable effects of the trial, Farr does a fine job of taking on a range of emotions whilst upholding Tristan’s charm, causing the majority of the comedic moments in the play.
Farr is well matched by Israel’s Connie, whose scenes are consistently entertaining and fascinating as she is one of the characters we see the most changes in. The intimate scenes between Connie and Tristan are handled maturely by the two performers and the montage showing their first night together is an endearing depiction of new love, bringing laughter and empathy to the audience.
Doctor Lorna James (Kirrily Long) and medical fanatic Doctor Toby Sealey (Jeremy Crow) do a lesser job of developing a relationship between their characters that has the life to it that the romance between Farr and Hall has. Past relations between the two are evident immediately, which is amusingly relatable in its awkwardness, but has an occasional tendency to drag next to Tristan and Connie’s scenes. Crow’s Doctor Sealey is truthful in his firm beliefs regarding mental health and gives a truly funny and memorable performance when presenting a brain to the audience, although he shows depth when it comes to Sealey’s lack of understanding of the illnesses he attempts to cure.
Nonetheless, moments between Long and Crow provide a lasting impression as they carry the important discussions surrounding mental health and the skepticism regarding biological treatment for depression, showcasing views some will recognise, such as “we’re going to look back on this chemical imbalance stuff like it’s the four humours”, which is stated by Long. Long herself provides the outstanding performance of the evening, her good intentions and views on the issues within the play taking Doctor James from a character seemingly there to support the storyline to the person in the heart of it, her performance ranging from cynical to gentle to devastating.
Characters appear completely natural and their emotional reactions are immaculate, making for an stimulating performance. Thanks to director Tess Gill, whose own experience with Brighton Little Theatre likely made an impact on her ability to take a good script, as well as an incredible set of actors, to bring us The Effect.