Review: ‘The Effect’ shows just how good the Company of Ten is

The Effect at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans [Picture: Anne Frizell]

The Effect at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans [Picture: Anne Frizell] - Credit: Anne Frizell

Madeleine Burton reviews Company of Ten’s production of The Effect at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans.

A recent TV advertisement promoting I know not what shows a young couple meeting, falling madly in love and planning their future together.

Just as quickly they turn against each other and passionate love is replaced by repugnance and hate.

The synopsis of that advert was in my mind after watching the Company of Ten’s excellent production of the Lucy Prebble play The Effect in the Abbey Theatre Studio.

What The Effect, written by the award-winning author of Enron, does is speculate how the influence of mind-altering chemicals – in this case antidepressants – can lead to life-changing situations such as falling in love.

Is it the drugs mimicking the act of falling in love and what happens when they stop?

That is just one of the questions asked in The Effect which leaves the audience to make up their own minds – if they can.

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Set in a drug trial clinic, there are just four characters in the play and their performances are all superb.

Director Chris Bramwell, who deserves credit for taking on such a controversial and topical play, must have been delighted to work with the cast he has.

Lucy Crick and Andrew Margerison take the roles of Connie and Tristan, two of the participants in the drugs trial.

A couple of extremely talented actors, who would not look amiss on the professional stage, they skilfully brought out the differences between the couple – the rule-abiding and cautious Connie and the brash Irishman Tristan.

Every little detail was perfect from the way they both reacted to inoculations – she cringing and looking away, he displaying total bravado – to their love scenes and the potentially hubristic denouement.

Behind the trial is Jo Emery’s brilliantly-observed Dr Laura James, herself a depressant who is not convinced that anti-depressants work, and Mark Waghorn as Dr Toby Sealey, the psychologist who is the face of the drug company sponsoring the trial.

All four are totally convincing in a production that is played out on a sparse but effective stage with clever projection and lighting.

The Effect demonstrates just how good the Company of Ten is when it has the right play, director and cast.

What it needs is more of an audience than it had on the opening night – this is one local theatre-goers definitely should not miss.

• The Effect runs until Saturday, January 27 with performances starting at 8pm.

Tickets are available from the box office on 01727 857861 or go to