Review: The Effect by the Moot House Players

Lifestyle / Mon 11th Jul 2016 pm31 01:53pm

The Effect
Moot House Players

A very profound “Effect”

“When it comes to mental health, be it good or bad, nothing is ever black and white”. That was the first of many thoughts that were provoked as I sat down to enjoy the final performance of Moot House Player’s production of Lucy Prebble’s “The Effect” on Saturday 9th July.

Staged in an environment where almost everything was visually black and white the dramatic contrast of the vivid and varied characters that graced the performance space was startling.

The play centres around two young drug-test volunteers, psychology student Connie (Abbie Middleton-Evans) and the easy come, easy go Tristan (Tyrone Samuels), and the two doctors played by Sarah Randall and James Miller, who are monitoring the effect of this experiment. As the dosage is increased, Connie and Tristan seemingly fall in love whilst struggling to work out whether their feelings are real or a side effect of the medication.

The intimacy and intensity displayed by Abbie and Tyrone was superb. The programme and pre-publicity details how rehearsals had been about far more than line-learning and staging and the level of detail and understanding of the complexity of mental health and mental illness and how this manifests itself in the appearance, behaviour of individuals, relationships and dynamics was both funny and frighteningly true.

However, this was very much an ensemble piece and Sarah and James demonstrated sensitivity and versatility as the intellectual debate between the virtues of psychiatry and psychology gave way to the raw emotion and consequences of complex relationships.

Director Harry Tennison is 19 years old. I mention this in case it was something the audience of “The Effect” were unaware of. The significance of this is two-fold: one, it demonstrates that this young man has acquired huge insight into life already, alongside the stagecraft, to draw on in performance creation, and two, it means, that hopefully we will see more of his work as he grows in stature.

It is hard to find fault in such a brilliant performance. Yes, there were times when the volume levels of the performers dropped a bit low, but as the entranced audience sat in almost total silence save for appreciative applause, this mattered very little.

I’m still not sure if the coughing fit that Sarah Randall had in the second-half was part of the performance but if it wasn’t, the fact that both she and Abbie ploughed ahead is just one example of the confidence and capability that Harry’s cast exhibited during the evening. Over the years the Moot House Players have been criticised for putting on productions that “weren’t ready” for an audience. “The Effect” in my opinion was ready for that and more and I’d gladly pay to see it again. When does it go on tour Mr Tennison?

Ian Beckett

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