Billie Piper 'thrillingly good' in National Theatre's The Effect

Piper wows critics in new play on love, drugs and neuroscience from 'Enron' writer Lucy Prebble

LAST UPDATED AT 07:32 ON Thu 15 Nov 2012

What you need to know
Lucy Prebble's new play The Effect, directed by Rupert Goold, has opened at the National Theatre. Prebble is best known for her hit play Enron and scripting the TV series Secret Diary of a Callgirl.

The Effect is set in an upmarket clinic where two volunteers are taking part in the medical trial of a new drug. As the drug alters their emotions, they fall in love, but aren't sure if it is real or not.

Billie Piper, (Doctor Who and Secret Diary of a Callgirl) and Jonjo O'Neill star as the chemically enhanced lovers. Anastasia Hille and Tom Goodman-Hill play two doctors supervising the trial.

Runs until 23 February.

What the critics like
This is a play of ideas, but it's also deeply moving, says Charles Spencer in The Daily Telegraph. Billie Piper, who has an astonishing ability to tap into deep, spontaneous emotion, is "superb", and Jonjo O'Neill is "equally fine as her ebullient lover". There is "a beautiful tenderness and grace about this production".

Rupert Goold's thoughtful production is lit up by "scintillating performances", says Henry Hitchings in The Evening Standard. "Goold directs with clarity and wit, eliciting acting that is boldly physical yet also often achingly delicate." Billie Piper and Jonjo O'Neill are "thrillingly good".

This provocative and challenging play is "searingly well-performed", says Paul Taylor in The Independent. Goold's production captures the author's "agile wit, intellectual penetration and a fresh, deeply affecting empathy".

What they don't like
For a play that supports the validity of the heart's affections, it often seems strangely cerebral, says Michael Billington in The Guardian. But it's a "palpably intelligent" play that shows writer Lucy Prebble is "not a flash in the pan". · 

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