The Effect

ASB Waterfront Theatre, 138 Halsey St, Wynyard Quarter, Auckland

16/04/2024 - 11/05/2024

Production Details

Playwright: Lucy Prebble
Director: Benjamin Kilby-Henson

Auckland Theatre Company

A sizzling chemistry lesson from Succession’s writer, Lucy Prebble, on whether love sits in the heart or in the brain.

“I’ll tell you what I want. I don’t want to reason with you. I want to know right now, in this moment, what you feel.”

When Connie and Tristan sign up for a clinical trial to test a new antidepressant, they fall for each other. Hard. Sealed off from the outside world, they’re ready to break all the rules. But are their feelings real or nothing more than a side effect from the drug that’s firing a dopamine hit to their brains?

British playwright Lucy Prebble (Executive Producer of Succession and Co-Writer of I Hate Suzie) shows all the razor-sharp flair that made her a star writer on the smash hit Succession in this deft dissection of medical ethics and the nature of human attraction – fresh from a critically acclaimed 2023 season at London’s National Theatre.

As the couple’s illicit romance throws the trial off course, tensions flare between the two supervising psychiatrists, who turn out to have a messy history of their own.

And, as both the dosage of the drug and the emotional stakes increase, a wider debate plays out on the medicalisation of depression for profit by the pharmaceutical industry. “There’s no such thing as side effects. They’re just effects you can’t sell.”

A provocative delve into the mysteries of human attraction, this chemical romance keeps you guessing as it asks which is more powerful – the head or the heart?

ASB Waterfront Theatre
16 April – 11 May 2024
Times and Booking

The production contains sexual references, offensive language, physical aggression, seizure depiction, and references to depression, anxiety, suicide, and strobe light effects. This production includes the use of realistic organ props.

Jayden Daniels ~ Tristan Frey
Jarod Rawiri ~ Dr Toby Sealey
Zoë Robins ~ Connie Hall
Sara Wiseman ~ Dr Lorna James

Assistant Director: Keagan Carr Fransch
Production Designer: Daniel Williams
Lighting Designer: Jane Hakaraia
Sound Designer: Chelsea Jade
Movement Director: Katrina George
Intimacy Director: Miriama McDowell

Theatre ,

2 hours and 20 minutes, including interval

Who do we truly love and how do we know if we are happy? Good question!

Review by Leila Lois 22nd Apr 2024

Benjamin Kilby-Henson’s direction of Lucy Prebble’s thought- provoking play, The Effect, opened to sell-out audiences at Auckland’s ASB Theatre late last week. The play dissects and disassembles the complex chemistry of love and desire and leaves spectators on the edge of their seats as they follow a four-week drug trial involving two young participants who navigate the ‘side effects’ with confusion and bewilderment, forming an inextricable bond.

The Auckland Theatre Company stages the tense drama phenomenally, with neon countdowns and drug dosages projected across the stage, the handiwork of lighting designer, Jane Hakaraia; throbbing heartbeats, and club tunes ricocheting through the drama, the creation of sound designer, Chelsea Jade.

Such avant-garde design elements are complemented by the utter commitment of the small cast and their embodiment of their characters’ inner conflicts and turmoil. In one such moment of amplitude, the glowing words “PAST” and “NOW” are cast across the set, as the young lovers, played by Zoë Robins and Jayden Daniels, and psychiatrists, played by Sara Wiseman and Jarod Rawiri, enact the quandaries surrounding the play. Who do we truly love and how do we know if we are happy?

Which feelings are real, and which are an ‘effect’, initially (we think) of drugs, and later, we learn, of myriad complex psychologies, involving trauma, social conditioning and self-talk.

The acting and dialogue unravel their private and connected histories with riveting momentum as we follow the trial’s progression towards impending disaster. The drama is constant— this is exceptionally entertaining theatre— unsurprising given the playwright’s credentials as Bafta, Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning author and producer of HBO TV series Succession. There is humour, peppered liberally in amid the tense moments, showing the full spectrum of human connection, as protagonists Connie and Tristan fall headlong in love in the most trying circumstances.

The rumbling sentiment of ill-fate culminates in a medical mistake that results in Tristan in hospital with amnesia, and Connie at his bed. Mental health issues such as amnesia and depression are played with such care in this piece of theatre, a credit to the actors and intimacy director, Miriama McDowell.

The ending of the play is unresolved for the couple, as they leave the hospital to their new uncertain life together, and the doctors are left to contend with the failure of their medical trial and guilt at the harm caused. The triumph of the production is in the acting, as the script is littered with moving lines. One such example is when Wiseman, playing a guilt-ridden and depressive Dr Lorna James, writhes on the floor, whimpering “I have no skin”. It’s moments in the dialogue like this, when the pathos of the play shine, permitting the audience a window into deeply human experiences, like depression.

With an innovative use of set and stage design, comedic timing, on-stage chemistry and groovy soundtrack, this production is a great achievement, lodging itself in the hippocampus.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council