Thursday, 21 August 2014

The Effect, Aug 21, 2014 ***

Written by Lucy Prebble, by Melbourne Theatre Company, 
At The Sumner, MTC Southbank Theatre, Aug 21 until Sept 20, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
This is a short review that is NOT for Herald Sun and will appear only on this blog. KH
 Zahra Newman (Connie), Nathaniel Dean (Tristan) Photo © Jeff Busby

A play about the use and misuse of anti-depressant medication is timely given that Australia is now one of the world’s leading users of such drugs.

The Effect, by UK playwright, Lucy Prebble, peers through a window at the near-disastrous impact of a new anti-depressant on two participants in a drug trial and the behaviour of two doctors (William McInnes, Sigrid Thornton) associated with the trial.

The two trial guinea pigs are Connie (Zahra Newman), a whip-smart but annoying, middle class student of psychology and Tristan (Nathaniel Dean), a young, working class man who wanted some extra cash to travel the world.

The two fall for each other and, when the chemical effects of the drug become confused with the effects of lust and attraction, the trial is compromised as is the health and well being of the pair.

The issues are provocative and compelling but the play is not. Prebble’s dialogue is so weighed down by research information, that the dialogue becomes didactic, expository and dull, particularly in the first half.

This strips all four characters of any distinctive voice, personality or emotional and psychological complexity – which is ironic when one considers that antidepressants are known to flatten mood. The doctors’ characters particularly are underwritten.

The performers are talented and skilful but they are let down by the poorly structured script and the direction (Leticia Cáceres) that is unimaginative and static.

Characters delivering fragmented dialogue in the confines of the clinic rooms, or standing and delivering long speeches to the audience, as is the case with McInnes’ medical lecture as Dr. Toby and Thornton’s long rave about her psychological past.

There is some development in the second half when there is less technical dialogue and some arguments or passion between the trial participants or the doctors.

The plot careers to a calamitous ending for two people but the characters remain shallow and emotionally shrill.

It is unfortunate that such an important issue has not been better handled by the writer.

 By Kate Herbert

Nathaniel Dean (Tristan), William McInnes (Toby), Zahra Newman (Connie), Sigrid Thornton (Dr James)

Director Leticia Cáceres; 

Assistant Director Kate Sulan;
Set Designer Andrew Bailey; 

Costume Designer Kate Davis;
Lighting Designer Damien Cooper;

Composer & Sound Designer THE SWEATS; 
Video Designer Chris More

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