The Effect by Sedos

The Effect is a play that premiered in 2012 and gained favourable reviews across the board but since then it is a play that has remained under the radar. Sedos however have picked up on this gem of a show and present it to a new audience, keen to discover this piece.

The Effect tells of 2 individuals, Connie and Tristan who sign up for a drug trial which is focusing on antidepressants and in particular the effect dopamine. The trial takes an interesting turn when a romantic connection begins to build, leaving them to question, is it love or is it the dopamine effect of the drugs mimicking the feelings of love. Alongside Connie and Tristan we also meet 2 scientists, Lorna and Toby, who are not only leading the trials but have a history of romantic entanglement. Their approaches however to medication, their own mental health and ethics surrounding the trial are vastly different which opens up a can of worms for discussion between them and for the audience to dissect.

The wonderful thing about the Effect and Sedos’ production of it is that it treats the audience with intelligence. The answers are not spelt out for the audience and in many cases the audience are left to make up their own mind. Whilst the content matter is serious and thought provoking there are plenty of moments of comedy to lighten the mood, which then highlight even further the more serious moments when they arrive.

Connie and Tristan are played by Jess Rogers and Omar Aga and their portray of these 2 characters comes across as wonderfully authentic. The dialogue for much of the show is a back and forth between them, ranging from a flirtation to heated arguments through to moments of stillness and each moment is paced wonderfully. The dialogue comes across as completely natural and they immerse you into their world and developing relationship as a result.

Lorna and Toby are played by Jessica Dawes and Daniel Saunders and they deal with the meatier conversations, reflecting on what is happening to Connie and Tristan and what this means for themselves. The power imbalance between them comes across brilliantly and when Connie addresses her own depression and Toby his own perceived arrogance their portrayal of the characters made this utterly believable.

It was not just the gem of a play and the solid performances that made this an exceptional night out to the theatre but Sedos’ achieve a heightened atmospheric performance due to the attention to detail given to the technical elements of the show. As the audience enter the auditorium the set is a large white box, with a clear plastic sheet acting as a curtain. The show opens by this being drawn and revealing a clinical set (realised by Andrew Laidlaw) , made up of a white bed and clear plastic seats. It immediately transports the audience to a medical setting but also heightens the coldness of science. The actors are soon stripped of their more colourful clothing they arrive in and they soon are decked out in white. The lighting, designed by Rhona Sampson, has a nod to the harsh strip lighting seen in most hospitals and this, along with a clever sound design help increase the tension and the curiosity as the play unfolds.

Within reviews there are often small moments in the show, ranging from the book, the performances or the technical side of things that I try to provide some sort of constructive criticism on where appropriate. However in Sedos’ production of The Effect there are no areas of the show that I could legitimately suggest an improvement on, a unusual thing in professional work, let alone amateur theatre. The Effect is a rare treat where the book, the performance and the technical elements merge together perfectly to create an outstanding night at the theatre.

The Effect is on at The Bridewell until Saturday 25th March. You can find out more and book tickets on their website.

If you like this review you might also like my reviews of some of Sedos’ previous performances including Carrie, American Idiot and Working.

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