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The Effect review at the Other Room, Cardiff – ‘a taut revival, terrifically performed’

Hussina Raja and Neal McWilliams in The Effect at the Other Room, Cardiff. Photo: Kieran Cudlip

Love, science, trust and ethics all collide in Lucy Prebble’s intelligent 2012 play, The Effect, set in a pharmaceutical trial facility. It’s given a welcome new production here by the Other Room and Critical Ambition.

Connie (Hussina Raja) and Tristan (Neal McWilliams) meet while acting as guinea pigs for a new dopamine-based medication to be used for the treatment of depression. They form an unlikely alliance – the highly-educated psychology student and the rebellious drug-trial veteran – which, as their medication is increased, leads to the pair falling in love. But is it true love or merely an artificially-created chemical imbalance in the brain?

Observing proceedings like gods on Olympus are two psychologists Lorna (Nicola Reynolds) and Toby (Jâms Thomas), seemingly elevated from the cruel fickleness of emotions and yet, as we learn of their shared history, every bit as vulnerable as the rest of us.

The cast of four is terrific in Dan Jones’ taut revival, infusing this most cerebral of explorations with genuine heart. Reynolds and newcomer Raja are extraordinary as the women whose very human disclosure propels the play to its climax. The design team of Carl Davies, Joe Fletcher and Tic Ashfield creates a near-future Black Mirror world that is both familiar and unsettling, a feat that’s especially impressive given the tiny confines of the performance space.

The Effect concludes the Other Room’s Lovesick season in confident style, once again enhancing the venue’s reputation as a producer of exciting fringe theatre.

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Taut, terrifically performed new revival of Lucy Prebble’s witty, intelligent play