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The Effect By Lucy Prebble at Bridewell Theatre

What is it that excites you about going to the theatre? For me, it can be different things. A certain play, an actor I admire, or a company I know is going to put on a really first-rate show. Sedos fall into the latter category, so I was really pumped to take my friend Hilary along to the Bridewell Theatre for their latest production The Effect.

The Effect - Credit Stephen Russell.
The Effect – Credit Stephen Russell.

In a clinic, Connie (Jess Rogers) and Tristan (Omar Aga) are being assessed for a residential drug trial. They are very different from each other. Connie is a very smart psychology student, killing time while her boyfriend is away, while Tristan is a more easygoing lad – who quite possibly has been doing some drug trials of his own – looking to earn some money to go travelling. Irrespective of their motivation, psychiatrist, and trial manager Lorna (Jessica Dawes) accepts them both onto the trial and, assisted by the nurse (Sophie Goodman) begins to administer the drug being tested, all under the watchful eye of Toby (Daniel Saunders) the company research head honcho. At first, things seem to be going OK with the trial. Then, in the way that things happen when people are forced to live together for a period of time, Connie and Tristan become sort of friends. Breaking the rules by popping outside for a cigarette, and other bits of friendly mischief. But, as that friendship moves up a notch, Connie in particular starts to question is this attraction genuine or the result of the drug they are taking in increasingly large doses? And does it matter, or will they throw the trial off course by allowing their feelings – whether real or drug enhanced – to take them to places they were not expecting to go?

Let’s start at the beginning here. Written by Lucy Prebble, The Effect is an exceptionally well put together story that explores questions of humanity, mental stability, alongside ideas of the effects of non-controllable – and in many ways unexplainable – constants such as rebellion and physical attraction. It’s a small cast but each character is beautifully drawn so that even when the totally unexpected occurs, and it does, you can see the logic of it. As we broke for the interval, I was saying to Hilary that I had no idea where the show was going to go. There were many possibilities in my mind and, as it turns out, I was completely wrong about all of them. The highly emotional second act totally blew away all my ideas and took me in a direction that was both unexpected and fascinating. As a piece of writing, The Effect really is superb, and I’m just surprised it doesn’t seem to get put on as often as it deserves.

We have an excellent story, so the big question is, did Sedos deliver it? The answer is a spectacular yes, they did in every way possible. From Andrew Laidlaw’s very clinical set to Natalie Harding-Cooper’s costumes, Rhona Sampson’s lighting, and Jonathan Harding-Cooper’s direction, the company broke the story down to its constituent parts and gave the audience a perfect visual setting to enjoy the words that were delivered by an outstanding cast.

The pairing of Connie and Tristan is the most important. We have two characters from different backgrounds and with wildly different opinions on life, and death, who become friends, behave like naughty school kids and possibly fall in love. Rogers and Aga really do the two justice with a depth of feeling and a chemistry that makes every, even the most improbable, thing that happens to them seem not only believable but very natural. I particularly loved Connie with her wonderful, if at times brutal, logic following her story to the person she became by the end, all portrayed beautifully by Rogers. In fact, this is a play where the four major characters really do go on a journey over the course of the play with none of them being the person they were at the start, and each story is played out in full for the audience to appreciate and go along with.

As we left, both Hilary and I agreed that Sedos have done it again. They have taken an extremely well-written story and elevated it to a new level thanks to clever casting and excellent staging. It’s a shame the show is only on until Saturday because not enough people will get the opportunity to see it and enjoy the story, its telling and the thoughts and reactions it causes.

5 Star Rating

Review by Terry Eastham

Two young volunteers, Tristan and Connie, agree to take part in a clinical drug trial. Succumbing to the gravitational pull of attraction and love, however, Tristan and Connie manage to throw the trial off-course, much to the frustration of the clinicians involved. This funny, moving and perhaps surprisingly human play explores questions of sanity, neurology and the limits of medicine, alongside ideas of fate, loyalty and the inevitability of physical attraction.

This show contains references to mental illness, and sexual language and actions.

CONNIE | Jess Rogers
TRISTAN | Omar Aga
LORNA | Jessica Dawes
TOBY | Daniel Saunders
NURSE | Sophie Goodman

DIRECTOR | Jonathon Harding-Cooper
PRODUCER | Ben Hussey
SET REALISATION | Andrew Laidlaw
STAGE MANAGER | Laura Martin
PROPS | Aimee Parnell
MARKETING and COSTUMES | Natalie Harding-Cooper
PHOTOGRAPHY | Stephen Russell

The Effect
A clinical romance exploring the limits of medicine and the inevitability of physical attraction
21-25 MARCH 2023

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