Theatre Review: The Effect

Theatre Review: The Effect

‘The Effect’ delves into the intense and unstable world of mental illness and the cynical and sometimes exploitative world of the big pharmaceutical companies.


Presented by: University of Adelaide Theatre Guild
Reviewed 5 October 2016

The Effect delves into the intense and unstable world of mental illness and the cynical and sometimes exploitative world of the big pharmaceutical companies. The University of Adelaide Theatre Guild are bringing this fresh work by young British playwright Lucy Prebble (creator of the highly successful TV series Secret Diary of a Call Girl) to South Australia.

While taking part in a clinical trial for a new medication (most likely an anti-depressant), two contrastingly different participants slowly become entangled in each other’s lives through their shared experience in the closed research environment. As their relationship grows, despite all the combative efforts from the Doctor running the trial, the uncertainty of true feelings are pitted against those that could be caused by the drug and both characters end up questioning what they’re experiencing; is it love, or is it the drug?

effect1The two participants, Connie and Tristan, are the centre of the narrative that is the backbone of the play. They are interestingly constructed as contrasting characters; Connie is quite a shy, nervous and introverted woman, making her a prime target for the over-the –top attention from extroverted, loud and confident Tristan who cheekily draws Connie out of her shell. Perhaps because of the strange environment of medical research their relationship almost appears on hyper drive as they jump from basic flirtation and lust, to passion and love then rapidly degenerating into anger and frustration. This provides an intense emotional rollercoaster for the audience as we follow the complex interplay between human emotions and drug induced reactions.

The play could be seen as a bringing to life of a documentary style discussion of current issues through the use of contemporary characters and their dialogue. The cast is small, only five characters, three of whom form the tight theatrical nucleus of the performance.

Cate Rogers is a standout as Doctor Lorna James, the clinician who is running the trial of this new drug. She is determined that the trial is successful and this often makes her stern, dictatorial and lacking compassion for the participants. Rogers is able to bring ferocity to parts of her performance as well as moments of humanity, compassion and human fragility.

The added use of unexpected technology through projections on the backdrop were an effective addition to the overall theatrical experience. Projections of heart rates, medication dosages and day counters kept the audience in the loop of the progressive research trial.

The Effect offers an intense theatrical experience which won’t be for all as it can leave you feeling quite drained. If however you like your theatre intense, contemporary and involving modern issues such as mental illness, then The Effect is well worth seeing.

Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Twitter: @Georgie_xox

Venue: Little Theatre, The Cloisters, University of Adelaide
Season: 5 – 15 October
Duration: 2 hours (20 minute interval)
Tickets: $23 – $28


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