The Effect by Lucy Pebble is the final part of The Other Room’s Lovesick season. The Effect explores the relationship between science and freewill with a sensitivity which enables the relationships in the story to bring its audience through complexities and into the drama.
Directed by The Other Room’s Dan Jones, this co-production with Critical Ambition sees four strong actors bring Lucy Pebble’s play of romance and science into life with humour and tenderness. Dan Jones has created a performance which is uncomfortable, entertaining and emotional.
The Effect is the story of a pharmaceutical drug trial. Tristan (Neal McWilliams) and Connie (Hussina Raja) come forward to test an experimental response to depression. Individuals who on the surface appear to have little in common fall in love. In observing the tenderness to the characters form, so there are accompanying questions- of environment, or emotions compared to endorphins. When the added complexity of placebo is added to the consideration so the complexity of free will is explored.
As Tristan, Neal McWilliams brings the initial laughs to balance the clinical setting for the piece. Carl Davies’s set transforms The Other Room into this world of medicine. Clinical and sparse, two screens accompany the medical storyline. Joe Fletcher’s lighting designing adds to the stark setting and enables moods to reform through the complexities of subject matter whilst Tic Ashfield’s soundscene enhances the science themes.
Tristan’s initial humour highlights the difference in the character of Connie. Hussina Raja confidently takes on the complex role as Connie, a psychology student with a greater awareness of the trial’s subject matter finds her way through the mix of emotions whilst trying to offset with her knowledge.
Connie’s complexities are complemented by the character of Tristan. Cleverly crafted to enable there to be more than the initial ‘cheeky boy’ humour. Tristan’s emotions toward Connie gain careful momentum through the rhythm Raja and McWilliams bring to the piece.
Bringing more to this story than a simple ‘boy meets girl in a pharmaceutical drug trial’ Nicola Reynolds takes on the role of Dr James. Guiding the two through the process, carefully bringing the science into the drama, Reynolds carefully creates a multi-faceted character. She is convincing as the clinician and emotionally volatile as a person living with their own depression.
Dr James’ story unfolds through her relationship with Toby (Jams Thomas). Toby brings to the story the only person with conviction of their own character, however questionable the character may be. The second part of the play focuses on this relationship. Bringing additional complexities to the role of science and the art of manipulation. Reynolds competently enables the themes of mental health to be explored. Further accentuating the impact of medical science and human control over ones own feelings.
At the play’s conclusion there are no answers. Whilst the play brings so many questions brought to the fore it does not exhaust. The beauty of the relationships and the underpinning humour enables you to be left with as much a sense of content as questions of life and medicine.
The Effect is at The Other Room, Cardiff until the 12th May 2018. Tickets are available on the website.
Disclosure: I was invited to the performance for the purpose of this review. All words and opinions contained are my own.