Doctor whose motives are on trial

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Opening next week in the Crucible Studio is The Effect, Lucy Prebble’s award-winning play exploring the psychology of love, the mysteries of the brain and what makes us tick. It is set in an isolated unit where a new drug is being tested on volunteers.

Stuart Bunce plays Toby, the doctor who is spearheading the trial for a pharmaceutical company, which makes you immediately suspect him. But, says the actor, the play is much more even-handed. “You feel as a writer she is struggling with the morality of the whole thing and sees both viewpoints,” he says.

“One of the big things in the play is cause and effect,” he continues. The mutual attraction between two of the triallists, Tristan and Connie, develops as the dosage increases, but are their feelings genuine or induced?

The anti-depressant affects the dopamine levels but that can happen naturally.

In addition to the central love story there are issues about the relationship between Toby and his assistant, Dr James.

“There is a description of each character divided between head or heart and optimist or pessimist. Toby is head/optimist – his passion is scientific but he’s also idealistic. They key thing about the character is he is not in it for the money. He wants the drug to work for the right reason. Fundamentally he wants it to be a breakthrough which might bring him personal gain, but that’s not the main reason he is doing it.”

There was an element of serendipity about Bunce’s casting. “I read the play without knowing I was going to be in it,” he says. “I was browsing in a bookshop looking for a monologue for my daughter’s Drama A level. I was struck by how it asks a lot of questions.”

The production has a link with a more distant past – Daniel Evans who is directing the play. “I was at Guildhall with Daniel. He was in the year below which meant I never really got to know him.”

The Effect begins previews from next Wednesday.