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Page 3 Profile: Lucy Prebble, Playwright


The playwright prodigy...

At 31, Lucy Prebble is already a grandee of British theatre. She bagged almost every "most promising" award in 2004 for her debut The Sugar Syndrome, and her 2009 play Enron was showered with Evening Standard and Olivier nominations. Now she returns with The Effect, at the National Theatre, and the pre-show buzz is deafening. It stars Billie Piper, with whom Prebble collaborated on the TV series, Secret Diary of a Call Girl.

That's quite a CV for someone so young

Don't say it to her face: "Youth is a cruel thing to praise an artist for. It is the one thing they can take no credit for and know they are destined to lose," she told the Financial Times. Of course, youth has never been a barrier. Sylvia Plath wrote The Bell Jar in her late 20s.

What's the new play about?

It's set in a controlled environment, where two star-crossed lovers take part in the clinical trial of a new drug. As doctors tweak their dosage to evoke both euphoria and despair, they attempt to work out what is real and what is not. Imagine Romeo and Juliet set in a medical facility.

A bit modern for my tastes?

These days, sending barely-clothed actors into the stalls to intimidate the audience is all the rage. But shock tactics aren't really Prebble's game, so attendees should be reasonably safe. It's unlikely that she would take too many risks, after Enron's mixed reception.

But it received glowing reviews!

British reviewers loved her edgy take on the energy firm's 2001 bankruptcy, but across the pond critics weren't so keen. The New York Times, which can make or break a Broadway production, said the play had "little substance" and barely amounted to a "flashy but laboured economics lesson". The play closed in the US after just 15 performances, losing around £2.6m. Prebble won't want that this time around.