With its main house takeover the Coliseum is offering smaller theatre companies, who normally occupy studio spaces, a shot at performing on a larger stage.
First up is Manchester’s Play With Fire with a revival of The Effect, playwright Lucy Prebble’s well-received follow-up to her mega-hit Enron.
The original 2012 National Theatre production of this play about two human guinea pigs who meet and fall in love while being given a pioneering anti-depressant as part of a clinical trial stood out for its design and director Rupert Goold’s visual flair.
In comparison, and given the opportunities afforded by the venue, Jake Murray’s production and Louis Price’s design don’t always use the extra space as effectively as they could.
Location changes aren’t distinct enough and some of the lengthier, talkier scenes – including the exchanges between Karren Winchester and Robin Kingsland as the two doctors conducting the experiment – are played far too statically.
But Prebble’s play still fizzes with tantalising ideas about the treatment of mental illness, the workings of the human mind and what it means to be in love. In truth, it asks more questions than it answers, but is most effective when dealing with the impact the experiment has on its subjects.
It’s in this area that this production scores highest. This is largely down to Elaine McNicol’s never-less-than-believable turn as Connie, the middle class psychology student who frets about her burgeoning relationship with Daniel Bradford’s rough-and-ready Irish live-wire Tristan and, in the play’s most heart-breaking scenes, becomes his carer when an overdose of the drug unravels his mind.