Writer: Lucy Pebble
Director: Dan Jones
Designer: Carl Davies
Sound Designer: Tic Ashfield
Reviewer: Emily Pearce
The Other Room, Cardiff’s first and only pub theatre, has fast established itself as a fiercely creative venue that is unafraid to take risks. A small theatre at the back of quirky pub, Porter’s, it has won numerous awards and has a strong reputation for curating contemporary plays, as well as nurturing new talent.
The Effect, part of its four-play ‘Lovesick’ season, is a compelling drama tautly directed by Dan Jones (Artistic Director and The Other Room). Combining science and art as themes, The Effect tells of two people, Tristan and Connie taking part in a pharmaceutical drug trial together who fall madly in love, before realising that they don’t know whether their feelings are true, or a side effect of the drug. The plays also explores mental health, though this is a theme that could be exploited further in the first half if the play were longer.
The design by Carl Davies is clinical and sparse, clever making use hospital beds in differing ways throughout, complemented by some clever sound design by Tic Ashfield, which undercuts the tension well. In addition to some clean direction from Dan Jones, the play’s cast are near perfect – practically all graduates from the formidable Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
As the two lovers, Neal Mcwilliams and Hussina Raja are a good pairing – one confident and carefree, the other cautious and cynical. Neal Mcwilliams is brilliant as Tristan, with an utterly natural Irish swagger and charm that belies an innocence. Hussina Raja as Connie is subtle and complex, the audience sees her falling for Tristan in spite of herself.
Nicola Reynolds is excellent as Dr Jones, the clinician testing the lovers, in a nuanced performance that shows how easy it is for a person to unravel as they can no longer cope with the high standards of expectation they hold themselves to. Her raw emotion is visceral throughout and steals the show in the second part. Tony, the doctor leading the experiment could easily be portrayed simply as a cocky, immoral man, however, Jâms Tomas’ performance shows his ambition and vulnerability.
The first half of The Effect is brilliant; tautly written with humour and risk going hand in hand – Lucy Pebble captures the awkwardness of initial attraction wittily. The second half, however, takes an unexpected turn, in exploring the doctors’ lives and mental health. While still interesting, the focus purely on the effect of drugs on the psyche might have resulted in a bigger impact towards the end. Nevertheless, The Effect is an excellent evening with some very classy performances and direction.
Reviewed on 26 April 2018 | Image: Kieran Cudlip