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The Effect

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Three stars

What does it mean to be love sick? Lucy Prebble's award-winning play, first seen at the Royal National Theatre in 2012, explores this painful question through two couples confined in very different ways by clinical drug trials in a medical testing centre run by a tellingly named pharmaceutical company. Connie and Tristan arrive as strangers, but within hours find themselves attracted to each other in a way that might just be chemically enhanced. Lorna and Toby, meanwhile, are the doctors overseeing Connie and Tristan's trial, and whose uneasy shared history dictates everything that follows.

As Connie and Tristan's terminal flirtation eventually spills over, so Lorna and Toby come to redefine their relationship through a series of double bluffs which have devastating consequences for them all.

The inner landscape Prebble explores in this fascinating dramatic analysis of chemistry, biology and sheer physical and mental desire is the sort of material that one might expect to be dissected in Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror series of one-off TV dramas. Richard Baron's revival of Prebble's play for the Borders-based Firebrand company squares up to the heart and soul of the matter with a quartet of ferocious performances that render much of the digitally animated projections unnecessary distractions.

As the younger pair, Scarlett Mack and Cameron Crighton get fully to grips with Connie and Tristan's adolescent yearnings in a way that counterpoints beautifully with Pauline Knowles and Jonathan Coote's more grown-up pairing as Lorna and Toby.

“This is a storm,” says Toby to a prone and possibly medically dependent Lorna towards the play's end. “It passes.” For some, maybe, but for those like Lorna addicted to love, probably not.
 
The Herald, February 27th 2015
 
ends

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