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Review Round-up: What Effect did Prebble's new play have on critics?

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Enron writer Lucy Prebble's new play The Effect, a co-production between the National Theatre and Headlong, opened at the NT Cottesloe last night (13 November 2012).

The Effect is about two volunteers that take part in a commercial scheme to investigate the causes of depression. Exploring questions of sanity, neurology and the limits of medicine, it features Billie Piper, Jonjo O'Neill, Anastasia Hille and Tom Goodman-Hill.

Directed by Rupert Goold, with design by Miriam Beuther, The Effect runs until 23 February 2013.

Michael Coveney

Our banquettes tremble along with the undercurrent of sound provided by Christopher Shutt, while Miriam Buether’s design creates an antiseptic environment that is resisted only when Tris leads Connie next door to an old asylum with tiled floors and goes into an amazing tap and soft shoe shuffle to “I’ve Got You Under my Skin"... a performance of, well, neurasthenic intensity from Anastasia Hille), and her psychiatric superior, Toby (played with a sporting and arrogant flourish by Tim Goodman-Hill)... Piper gets better every time I see her, and this performance is full of laughter and tears, great physical verve and vivacity, while O’Neill burns up the stage with an electrifying confidence and swagger burnished in his RSC work over the past few years. An imperfect play, maybe, but one that pleases and provokes in equal measure

Henry Hitchings
Evening Standard

Rupert Goold’s thoughtful production is lit up by scintillating performances. The cast includes Billie Piper, appearing for the first time at the National Theatre. She and Jonjo O’Neill are thrillingly good as two participants in a medical trial. He is charismatic and skittish; she is fidgety and soulful... Goodman-Hill is especially impressive when wringing defiant monologues from within himself, while Hille perfectly conveys the ways in which Lorna’s clipped manner covers up her vulnerability... Goold directs with clarity and wit, eliciting acting that is boldly physical yet also often achingly delicate. There’s a slick design by Miriam Buether, which converts the Cottesloe into the waiting room of a smart private clinic, as well as suggestive projections by Jon Driscoll and some haunting music by Sarah Angliss

Michael Billington

...beautifully staged by Goold in a Miriam Buether set that turns the Cottesloe into a clinical institution filled with beige banquettes. And the acting is excellent throughout. Billie Piper, as she proved in Treats and Reasons to Be Pretty, has a strong stage presence, and endows Connie with a glowing warmth and palpable hunger for love. Jonjo O'Neill is equally good as the volatile Tristan, who is randy, funny and disobedient... Anastasia Hille and Tom Goodman-Hill carry the main burden of the play's argument, and do so with utter conviction. There is a wiry tenseness to Hille that makes her confession of the character's depression totally plausible. And Goodman-Hill has the right mix of assurance and guilt...

Charles Spencer
Daily Telegraph

...beautifully and often heart-wrenchingly played by Billie Piper and Jonjo O’Neill... Rupert Goold can be a bit of a flash harry as a director, but there is a beautiful tenderness and grace about this production. Billie Piper, an actress with an astonishing ability to tap into deep and apparently entirely spontaneous emotion, is superb as the drugs triallist awaking to love but fearful that it might all be a chemical trick. And Jonjo O’Neill is equally fine as her ebullient lover who becomes deeply poignant in the latter section of the play... Tom Goodman-Hill brings a fascinating moral ambiguity to the doctor leading the trials, and Anastasia Hille moves from dry humour to something far more desolate as his assistant...The Effect is an astonishingly rich and rewarding play, as intelligent as it is deeply felt.

Quentin Letts
Daily Mail

The new offering is entitled The Effect but might as easily be called The Special Effects, given the number of staging stunts... Rupert Goold's quest for visual variety is more successful than the fleshing out of the characters. They fall in and out of love but not always in a convincing way, despite the best efforts of Miss Piper – who has a lovely, natural manner – and Miss Hille, who gives lab-coated Dr James a brittle, ironic touch.


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