At just 27 years of age, Dipo Baruwa-Etti is carving quite a name for himself in the theatre world. This summer his play Half-Empty Glasses premiered at the Fringe to critical acclaim. Now he is making his Almeida debut with The Clinic, which is his fourth production in just 2 years!

Credit: Marc Brenner

At the core of The Clinic is a debate on class, politics and race. Examining the intersectionality of class and race and investigating all sides of the political debate. With parents Tiwa and Segun at the more conservative side of the spectrum and daughter Ore, and her sister-in-law Amina towards the left. The play brings up important issues and raises the debate of whether you must be politically liberal if you are part of an ethnic minority.

In Paul Willis’ modern kitchen set, we are introduced to a middle-class British-Nigerian family. With Lanre Malaolu’s choreography, the members of the family dance around the kitchen, creating a touching moment and the perfect introduction to a show with a family at the heart of it. It’s evident from Willis’ set that the drama is set in modern times, clarified further by the mention of Boris Johnson’s name.

Father Segun (Maynard Eziashi) is a psychotherapist, mother Tiwa (Donna Berlin) helps with the running of a clinic at the woman’s shelter. Daughter Ore (Gloria Obianyo) is a burnt-out junior doctor, her brother Bayo (Simon Manyonda) is a police officer, and his wife Amina (Mercy Ojelade) is a Labour MP. At times the portrayals by all make for an authentic feeling family, particularly moments between the two siblings which I’m sure many audience members will relate to. However, there are also moments where each family member is mean to one another, which makes you question why they all still get together so often.

Ore’s patient passes away from Endocarditis, and his activist wife Wunmi (Toyin Ayedun-Alase) asks Ore for morphine which she says she will use to end her own life. Ore talks to her mother about this, and Tiwa decides Wunmi should come to stay with them and attend The Clinic. I found that Ayedun-Alase’s portrayal of Wunmi as someone that is suicidal wasn’t the most believable. Although the character says she wishes to end her life, nothing in her behaviours, moods or mannerisms would otherwise suggest this – dampening the genuineness of the character. Wunmi has strong political beliefs and is outraged when she discovers that the couple, she is living with are Tory voters, and have a police officer son. However, she seems to forget her beliefs very rapidly, and is suddenly fine with living with the couple and falling for Segun.

Credit: Marc Brenner

Obianyo’s performance on the other hand is wonderful. With deadpan expressions, snarkily sarcastic comments and chain smoking – she perfectly embodies that of someone burnt out by trying to help others in a system that fails both workers and people of colour.

Not too much happens during Act One, as the play sets up the story, it does however do a wonderful job at building intrigue. The use of Matt Haskins’ lighting and Christopher Shutt’s sound builds tension, and the sound and lighting of electrical shocks when Wunmi touches another person, intrigued me throughout, but ultimately the question of why was never answered.

I really enjoyed the political debates interlaced throughout the script, but ultimately The Clinic has too many contending strands of storyline and leaves too much to the imagination, making suggestions to then never mention them again. This unfortunately dilutes the important message that the play is trying to give about race, politics and privilege. We don’t ever get to know the characters very well, so all of them appear quite one-dimensional and flaky with their morals and beliefs. The Clinic has relatable moments, funny moments and has the potential to be a wonderful work of satire that holds an important message at its core, but some editing is required for this play to reach that potential.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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