It is understandable: Lucy Prebble’s last play, Enron, took a somewhat complex and dull subject and made it entertaining. Add the fact it featured lightsabers, and well, that was enough to make it a classic.
The Effect is no different, only this time there are no lightsabers, and the development of anti-depressants is not really in itself a riveting subject. However, the two main characters develop alongside the arguments around depression, its cause and “cure”.
The questions the play poses are the big ones that many agonised whilst getting drunk at University – what is love, a biological reaction? If that reaction could be recreated with a pill, would it be love, or just a reaction? A few years later you find yourself asking what happiness is, and conversely what depression is (especially when you have friends impacted by it). Is it a chemical imbalance or a reaction to external events? Both are melded here.What if a pill that 'cures' depression was given to two 'normal' people who then just happened to fall in love? Would that be real?
The acting is strong, and whilst Billie Piper is the headline draw, the whole cast is in fine form. It was especially good to see Tim Goodman Hill, who played the slippery accountant/gamekeeper in Enron, in another quality role as the clinical director here.
The first half was a bit slow, but the subject matter requires time to be digested. There are many laugh-out-loud moments, and toward the end I could not help but begin to empathise with the main characters. I genuinely started to feel for them in their pain.
The Cottesloe at the National is a great theatre, offering the actors a 360-degree stage on which to perform, and as with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, it has been brilliantly transformed. My only grip is that is that it is small, and only a few will experience what will be a top contender for play of the year.
Second Degree paid for his own ticket.