The atmospheric set for the productionAmelia Oakley

At what point does the use of anti-depressants go too far? To what extent is it ethical to chemically change a person’s emotions? If drugs can stimulate the effect of being in love, is it still love? To what extent is your mind purely reactive to your body? These questions were raised and probed through a series of powerful sequences. The Effect took the audience on a journey from what appeared to be a routine medical drugs trial to what was actually an exposé of the human mind.

The strength of this production was clearly the evolution of the characters, played by a strong cast of four. They took the audience with them as they chatted, laughed, fell in love, panicked, ranted, broke down, and ultimately became very different people from those we saw at the start of the play. The performance wasn’t perfectly smooth, which became evident at the beginning when Os Leanse paused several times, in what initially seemed to be a dramatic build-up to an important statement, before it became clear that he had in fact forgotten his lines.

Despite this, he was paired well with Avigail Tlalim to form the couple that were the focus of the play. Both actors were effective in creating characters that the audience could empathise with. Individually, their performances didn’t blow me away, but together they had a visible chemistry which created moments of gripping tension. Tom Hilton was also well cast as a smooth-talking psychiatrist, but Bethan Davidson’s performance was simply outstanding; subtle and compelling, she never so much as raised her voice, but still captivated the audience’s attention. Her suffering was understated but powerful. 

The use of sound effects and projections helped to immerse the audience within the setting, and also kept the energy up – despite the appeal of the play, it’s difficult to retain an audience’s interest for two hours without any interval. One major drawback of the set was that several key moments were played out with members of the cast on the floor, which meant that no one but the front row could see what was going on. However, the Corpus Playroom combined with the set provided a heated atmosphere reminiscent of a crucible, emphasising the strain on the characters as the story progressed. 

Lucy Prebble’s script was moving and thought-provoking, and the cast and crew did a great job of bringing it to life. There were plenty of forceful one-liners – particularly the line that everything is "a distraction from the fact that we're all going to die". The Effect left you with the unsettling feeling that we’re all emotionally crippled, and you’re not nearly as in control as you think you are.