Last weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing a performance of Lucy Prebble’s The Effect, brought to The Organ Grinder by Loughborough graduates courtesy of Four Wheeled Theatre. Four Wheeled Theatre have spent three successful years at Edinburgh Fringe and decided it was time to bring this success to Loughborough, building my expectations for the show long before I went to see it.
The Effect, in essence, is a clinical romance whereby two people are observed during an anti-depressant drug trial. Throughout, themes of sanity, the power of medicine and mental illness are explored, and questions are asked surrounding the idea of self-freedom. Do we make our own decisions or are we the product of chemical reaction? What really makes us who we are?
Whenever I attend a theatre show held in a bar there’s always one main thought that crosses my mind: how are they going to make this work? Atmosphere can be lost in settings such as this, for example, and so it felt like an odd choice. Curiously, I ventured upstairs to an attic-like setting where a flurry of chairs huddled around a large table that was covered with a white tablecloth. It was quite mysterious in nature, and so peaked my interest as I sat down on possibly the creakiest chair in existence, waiting for the show to begin as lights dimmed and the murmur of voices ceased.
What I found most effective about the show was how small space was used to the best of advantage. The stage was simple, but became complex through the movement and positioning of actors, allowing the possibility for audiences to imagine surroundings clearly, with musical assistance to transition between acts. The lighting and sound were key to the production’s impact, and tinges of purple and blue were used to create a more realistic clinical atmosphere. I also enjoyed how music and sound recordings expressed ideas of their own and aided in the building of scenes, which allowed the show to flow aptly.
The whole performance surrounded four characters: two researchers and two test subjects. The four actors all did a tremendous job of embedding themselves in the mind-set of each character and were emotionally expressive enough to be believable, especially as they were dealing with some delicate issues. The relationship built between the trial patients was somewhat expected for a story based on clinical romance, but was enjoyable to watch as they progressed through times of happiness and dismay. The researchers were also given their own level of character depth, something I didn’t expect from what I had read before hand, and this let audiences explore wider issues outside of the budding romance between patients.
Despite some mature moments that I, admittedly, didn’t see the necessity of at some parts of the show, overall The Effect allowed people to not only become involved with the story but think about the idea of self-control and the lengths people go to for love. As someone who is partial to a good brainteaser, this was a delightful part of the experience for me, as the constant tension built surrounding if the feelings of characters are genuine allowed for an entertaining evening as well as a good talking point for conversations to come.