Category Archives: 2010’s

The Effect

Review: by Carole Woddis of performance seen Nov 24, 2012,
Cottesloe Theatre, National Theatre, London

`I think therefore I am’. What would the French philosopher, Descartes make of 21st century neuroscience claims wherein scientists claim so much of the mysteries of the brain can be revealed through the infamous MRI scanning process?

Would he snort in derision or luxuriate in the scientific developments that have enabled such breakthroughs to exist?

After dissecting the calamitous chicaneries of capitalism in her previous success, Enron, Lucy Prebble has now taken a walloping dose of scepticism to neuroscience. The Effect is by any standards a lethal, heartfelt and searing critique of the medical-psychological establishment’s stance on depression as a `disease’ that can, like any other disease be cured by drugs.

Along with Rupert Goold and his Headlong company – the same team behind Enron – they’ve produced a complex, painful and riveting two and half hours of theatre.

Whether it actually withstands cool, dispassionate analysis is hard to say because this is simply not a play or a production that allows for easy detachment.

With designer Miriam Buether, Goold cleverly sets it within an open-plan, yet intimate space that with its smart beige walls, low tables and benches, resembles a flashy if impersonal modern office waiting room.

As with the original production of Joe Penhall’s equally absorbing mental health probe, Blue/Orange, we the audience are part of the action.

Up close and very personal, we see every twitch and shudder following Jonjo O’Neill and Billie Piper as two volunteers in a drug trial set up by fictionalised pharmaceutical firm, Rauchen to counteract depression.

With one on the drug, the other on a placebo, Prebble exposes, step by highly scrutinised medical step, the devastating, unforeseen consequences on them both and on the two doctors accompanying them – Anastasia Hille’s quiet, empathetic but highly vulnerable Connie and Tom Goodman-Hill’s ambitious psychiatrist, Toby.

If Prebble’s conclusions finally seem contradictory and she takes rather too much dramatic license in the two psychologists inter-weaving personal lives, nothing can detract from the explosive power of the developing relationship between O’Neill and Piper. Nor reduce admiration both for Goold’s controlled direction or the performers almost sacrificial emotional commitment. Ovations, all the way. If we were giving stars, it would be high fives!

Doctors: Anastasia Hille, Tom Goodman-Hill
Trialists: Billie Piper,  Jonjo O’Neill

Director: Rupert Goold
Designer: Miriam Buether
Lighting Designer: Jon Clark
Music: Sarah Angliss
Projection Designer: Jon Driscoll
Sound Designer: Christopher Shutt
Movement Director: Aletta Collins
Fight Director: Kate Waters
Company Voice Work: Jeannette Nelson

Assistant to the Lighting Designer: Kate Greaves
Assistant to the Designer: Lucy Sierra
Digital Artist: Tim Blazdell
Associate Projection Designer: Paul Kenah
Casting: Wendy Spon

World premiere of The Effect at the Cottesloe Theatre, London, Nov 13, 2012

Master Class

Vaudeville Theatre,
London WC2

Review of performance seen Feb 8, 2012:

Master Class at the Vaudeville Theatre, London

There’s something slightly lurid about Terrence McNally’s Master Class. Is it a homage or a disfiguration of Maria Callas? When it was first produced in London a decade and more ago, it struck me then as a rather odious love-hate letter to the late, great opera diva. Continue reading


Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe, London ****
Review of perf seen Dec 30, 2019. Runs 1hr 30 mins without interval 

© Johan Persson, Nina Cassells as the young Princess Elizabeth, calling on God to protect her, surrounded on all sides by insecurity…

My goodness, that Ella Hickson doesn’t let the grass grow under her feet for long.

Having circled the globe in time and space with Oil (2016) and the history of fossil fuel, taken on creativity with The Writer (2018), here she is again in winning form playfully, even mischievously with serious intent, re-examining the legacy of that role model to end all female role models, Elizabeth I. Continue reading


Orange Tree, Richmond, London ****
Runs: 2hrs with an interval

Review of perf seen Dec 28, 2019:

© Johan Persson, Martin Hutson as Reverend James Morell and Claire Lams as his wife, Candida - happily married bliss...

© Johan Persson, Martin Hutson as Reverend James Morell and Claire Lams as his wife, Candida – happily married bliss…intensity and twinkling good humour…

A free thinking poet confronts a charismatic Christian socialist preacher. In between them stands a woman loved by both men. Which one will win her hand? Continue reading


Young Vic Theatre, London ****
Runs: 1hrs 30 mins without interval

© Marc Brenner, Rhashan Stone (Dayton), Nicola Hughes (Beverly) - happy moment for wife and husband before the birthday treat...that goes wrong...

© Marc Brenner, Rhashan Stone (Dayton), Nicola Hughes (Beverly) – happy moment for wife and husband before the birthday treat…that goes wrong…

Review of perf seen Dec 17, 2019:

Over thirty years ago, African-American writer and satirist, George C Wolfe presented a play in London called The Colored Museum. I have never forgotten it. Continue reading