Event: The Effect by Lucy Prebble
Location: National Theatre, SE1
The Effect, starring Billie Piper, is Lucy Prebble’s new play about volunteers on a drug trial. This is Prebble’s follow-up to Enron, which made her name, and is also directed by Rupert Goold in a joint production between the National Theatre and Headlong.
The play is about depression, its definition and its treatment following two guinea pig volunteers and their doctors on a clinical trial. The two volunteers (played by Piper and Jonjo O’Neill) start falling in love as they are taking ever higher doses of the drug they are trialing, making them wonder if their feelings for each other are real or enhanced by the drugs.
It was inspired by the 2006 Northwick Park hospital drug trial that resulted in volunteers suffering organ failure, although it does not follow that storyline. The play explores the debate around depression and what actually counts as depressive illness.
Prebble wrote the play for Billie Piper, after they worked together on the television series Secret Diary of a Call Girl.
It is on at the National’s Cottesloe Theatre until mid February.