National Theatres 'The Effect' Review

The Effect is a delicate, bold and gripping story of love at a drug trial which is vividly brought to life under a refreshing vision.

National Theatres 'The Effect' Review

Connie and Tristan are an unlikely match and, like a lot of love stories, these differences are what light the spark between them. However unlike other love stories, this unusual situation where they are taking antidepressants as part of a drug trial poses the question of what it takes to love someone in a very different light. As the chemicals take over their bodies, they lose control of their emotions, reactions and feelings for each other and over the situation.

Prebble does a brilliant job of constantly flipping your perspective on the situation with each twist and turn and this carefully crafted script weaves the character storylines seamlessly. The humour whisks you through what could otherwise seem like a very weighty play, whilst still having those moments of in-breath and stillness as you reflect on the wider meaning of the text. The play, although written in 2012, has great relevance to current day issues, making the story even more impactful.

Lloyd's direction has run with the theme of 'mental health as physical health' in each scene which seems to be a manifestation of the state of tension that the characters are feeling. A highlight is the joyous love sequence which captures the ridiculousness of two people who are completely in love through unlikely physical interactions. As the stakes run higher the use of space becomes a little messier and Michael 'Mikey J' Asante's and George Dennis's work on the sound and music really takes effect by recreating the adrenaline feeling the characters go through as you leave the play on a similar high. Soutra Gilmour's pared back set design is well combined with Jon Clark's lighting to help create the clinical world of medicine. The lighting also constantly transforms the size of the space to expand and contract with the contrasting immense and intimate scenes between the characters.

Cleverly cast, each member has an enthralling presence which captivates the audience entirely. The chemistry between all the characters on stage is electrifying. Paapa Essiedu is a charming Tristan who perfectly times each gag and whose character development reaches extreme emotions in a fearless manner. Taylor Russell's Connie is vulnerable and sincere and whose character's awkwardness take us on that journey of what its like to fall for someone. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith's interpretation of Dr Toby reflects the various complicated ethics involved in drug trials and has a great rapport when in direct address with the audience. However, its Michele Austin's Dr Lorna who really stands out being the core character which links everyone together. Her porous performance gives such variation of highs and lows as we journey with Lorna's mental health.

This tense and magnetic play is a messy mixture of chemicals and ethics which is well worth the watch and more importantly experience.

Header Image Credit: Paapa Essiedu (Tristan) and Taylor Russell (Connie) in The Effect at the National Theatre. Photo by Marc Brenner-0914


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