“Medicine is the new placebo, because none of it works anyway,” Adrian Pang quips in Pangdemonium’s latest production. And it’s none too timely either.
The Effect is a perfect play for our hypochondriac, pill popping generation, where we inject ourselves with more and more additives as a solution to our problems. The Effect tells the story of Connie Hall (Nikki Muller) and Tristan Frey (Linden Furnell), two ordinary people who attend an experimental drug trial conducted by no nonsense doctor Lorna Jones (Tan Kheng Hua) and business minded doctor Toby Sealey (Adrian Pang). What unfolds is a two part gut punch of a play, starting off ecstatically happy and hopeful, but by the end of it, had audiences deep in thought about the nature of drugs, the brain and above all, mental illness.
We caught the final performance on Sunday and were thoroughly impressed by the amount of research that went into the script, set designer Wai Yin Kwok’s impressive stage, giving audiences the notion of entrapment and loneliness from its cold and clinical laboratory-like atmosphere. and of course, stellar performances as always from the cast, with great chemistry from Muller and Furnell, letting the audience really root for the star-crossed lovers. The standout performer though, had to be veteran performer and household name Tan Kheng Hua, who is no stranger to the stage. From clever doctor who asks tough questions, Tan’s journey as Dr Jones came crashing down in the play’s denouement, lapsing into a heartbreaking portrayal of a person who suffers from severe depression and the aftereffects of mistrust and multiple betrayals, and left a void in our hearts as the curtains closed.
The Effect may be depressing, but is thoroughly sobering, waking audiences to the hard truths of our world, and that some diseases simply don’t have a hard and fast answer encapsulated in a single pill. Pangdemonium has done it again, and continues to produce one amazing show after another. We’re definitely looking forward to Falling coming up soon!