Well-written and insightful theatre reviews are a dime a dozen, so obviously this is not gonna be one of them.
Title of play: The Effect
Playwright: Lucy Prebble
Director: Tracy Pang
Cast: Nikki Muller, Linden Furnell, Tan Kheng Hua, Adrian Pang
This was my first Pangdemonium production, and I was half intrigued by the premise of whether love is chemically induced, or if it is something deeper and more profound than that. Didn’t know that there would be a discussion on depression as well, so that was a welcome treat.
As in the blurb, the play centred on the growing attraction between Tristan (Furnell) and Connie (Muller), two subjects in a clinical trial for an anti-depressant. The heady feelings of falling in love is counterpointed by the weight the unspoken history between Dr Lorna (Tan), the psychiatrist heading the trial, and Dr Toby (Pang), her superior in the company. What seems at first a light treatise on the nature of love takes on a darker turn at the denouement.
(Sorry about the cliched writing, but hey, warning was given in the first para!)
Prebble had definitely researched well on the science bits of the play, but like any self-respecting artist, also ruminated on the philosophical and monetary aspects of progress in science in quantifying what was previously thought of as sacred. Even so, I would have liked to see more contemplation on what love means, instead of the almost slick tying of the ends.
A couple of articles on the by now notorious money grubber CEO of big pharma, and a bit of scary news on clinical trials, which make the plot of the play wholly plausible:
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Shkreli (sorry it’s a wiki entry, but it’s probably more concise than trawling through articles)
I love the set, sound, and lighting designs. I thought it closed up the large stage of the Victoria Theatre perfectly, giving an intimate feel to a 4-man play. The panels opened up to give an ironic sense of freedom to the asylum where they ran off to explore. The MRI sequence was probably unnecessary, but so beautifully done, with the images of brain scans flashed on the stage.
However, I felt that the energy of the cast was a bit off in the performance that I’d watched. The director was taking notes at the back of the theatre though, so perhaps a nice equilibrium can be reached in one of the upcoming shows. The only major quibble I had was with the fairly thick British accent, especially at the beginning. Having gotten used to hearing American pronunciation on most forms of media, the clipped British tones (glottal stops, is it?), especially of Muller, was distracting me from understanding the dialogue easily. I doubt most local audiences would glean more about the characters’ backgrounds with the use of regional British accents. I’m not advocating Singlish, mind you. It’s just that it would have been far easier for me to digest a more neutral accent. Sorry. Maybe it’s just me getting older.
Is it worth a watch? I reckon so, even if it is to contemplate on how you love, or how you have climbed out of depression (or not), and what/who you have lost along the way.