Monday 19 June saw the collaboration of two subjects we never knew we
needed; a combined Drama and Psychology club. Lower Sixth students used the play ‘The
Effect’ by Lucy Prebble that won the Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play in 2012. Some of you
may also know the playwright from her recent television hit, ‘Succession’.
In this session, led by Miss Proops, Mrs Anderson and Miss Quigley, we read an
extract of the play and used it as a starting point to discuss the effect of schizophrenia on
the brain and the consequences seen in Forensic Psychiatric units. We discussed how judicial and medical
professionals should deal with people suffering with mental illnesses who have committed
serious crimes. To what extent can we blame the disorder, or the person? The play tussles
with the ongoing scientific debate on the causation of emotion and subsequently mental
illness – is it a result of how our brain reacts to external factors or is it related to chemicals
released in the brain (such as dopamine) that result in particular emotional responses to
certain events? This led to a discussion about the stigma surrounding ‘insanity’ and the
metaphorical wall between that and ‘sanity’. We talked about the spectrum of mental health
that we exist within (thriving, surviving, struggling, crises) and how this is constantly shifting
throughout our lives.
The play explores this through two characters who are undergoing a clinical trial in order to
test a new drug where some of the side effects are physical symptoms (such as an increased
heartbeat) and an increase of dopamine in the brain. However, it comes to light that there
are placebos amongst the drug which leads the audience to question whether there is a
difference between ‘love’ as we know it, and a combination of chemicals in the brain. By using an interdisciplinary approach to the play, we were able to gain many more sides
and angles to discussion, gaining a fuller picture of the topics discussed.