The Effect is the latest Newcastle University Theatre Society play written, directed and performed by students at Northern Stage. Written by Lucy Prebble, and directed by Chloe Muggleston and Elle Money, it offers a startling angle on drug trials, provoking questions surrounding the philosophy, psychological truth and love.
The story centres on a love affair between two people taking part in an intense drug trial for anti-depressants. Performed by a cast of only four students, the two hour work was moving and mind expanding. Detailed psychological ideas were interspersed with comedy and romance in a way that made sense and felt familiar whilst also forcing us to question the extent to which we can rely on our brains. I interviewed one of the directors, Chloe Muggleston, about her experience directing.
Have you directed a play before?
I have been part of the theatre society since first year but this was my first time directing! As we only had a month to rehearse and source everything for the play I had to learn very quickly.
What were some of the challenges you faced?
In terms of the managing side the play, the main challenges were to do with timing. We were the first NUTS show of the year so we were inevitably going to have less time to prepare. We decided from the onset that we were going to be tech heavy, including a lot of sound, lighting and AV. This was very time consuming as everything had to be gathered and edited. My co-director and I were so pleased with our actors as they constantly gave it their all and pushed to get off script as quick as possible which allowed us to really work on each scene. I think everyone will agree when I say as a director you can always work to improve on certain aspects, but our main priority was to ensure everyone was enjoying being part of The Effect and having fun!
How was directing the hand-job scene?
Both actors were happy to give it their all, and pretty much got it spot on from the beginning. The only awkward moment was when the actress playing Connie had brought her boyfriend to rehearsals and he had to sit watching them go over this scene while we blocked it, he didn’t look too happy.
What was it like watching the first performance?
I was super nervous. All the actors knew their lines and all the tech had been sorted, but our first show was essentially our first proper run through. You spend so much time trying to make it perfect the first night it always going to be scary as you see how an audience will react to what you’ve created. The opening night was amazing, rather than critiquing or discussing what needed tweaking I actually watched it and just enjoyed it.
Has The Effect changed your perception of the mind or psychology?
The Effect is set around a pharmaceuticals drugs trial for anti-depressants but it does focus heavily on a love story. Lucy Prebble looks at the overlap between the effect of an antidepressant and the effect of love (both which increase dopamine in the body). For me, this play allows people to start to think about the effects of depression and what might have an impact. The brain is so complex that my perception of it will constantly be changing.
Do you have any advice for people who want to direct?
You need to love the play that you are putting on and know what outcome you are hoping for as you will be fully immersed with it until the show day. The best advice I could give to someone would be to follow your vision but mainly enjoy it and have fun.