‘The Effect’ is absolutely spectacular. Written by Lucy Prebble, and directed in this particular production by Evie Ayres-Townshend, the play crackles with a constant back-and-forth intensity, portraying the debate between love and science, and posing the question of how these two concepts sit in relation to each other. Primarily set in a hospital, the play chronicles the relationship between two volunteers, Tristan (Freddie Watkins) and Connie (Isis Hope Lloyd) as doctors conduct an experiment on them in order to determine the effects of a drug currently being developed. The conflict arises when the two find themselves drawn to each other despite the fact that romantic relationships between volunteers are prohibited throughout the length of the experiment.
Although at first glance deceptively simple in terms of staging, it is in its simplicity that the play truly finds its feet. The minimalism subtly accentuates nuances within the dialogue and characterisation, as portrayed by the actors. Additionally, the transitions from scene to scene were seamless, and very cohesive, but perhaps could be slightly improved upon by dimming the lights slowly, rather than all at once, which I found to be a little jarring. However, other uses of light and sound more than make up for this mild shortcoming. The use of voice-overs to announce the progress of the experiment was a particularly creative touch in setting up exposition before certain scenes, which I very much enjoyed.
The play’s potential is driven further by the undeniable chemistry between characters. Although all of the cast are phenomenal, Freddie Watkins’s portrayal of Tristan steals the show. His performance is an ever-changing thing, constantly and seamlessly adapting as the play progresses; one minute in glaring intensity, and the next in tentative tenderness, exhibiting the chemistry between himself and Isis Hope Lloyd’s skilful portrayal of Connie. A special mention also, to Rosanna Adams as Dr James, and Will Matthews as Dr Sealy, both of whom infuse their characters with a palpable vulnerability and humanity that is evidently and skilfully executed.
This production buzzes with consistent wit, charm, and heart, finding its beauty in its simplicity. There’s definitely something in it for everyone.