An interesting premise is squandered in Dipo Baruwa-Etti’s ambitious but overstuffed play The Clinic playing now at the Almeida Theatre
“Not everyone can be saved”
Dipo Baruwa-Etti’s The Clinic starts off in a really interesting place. Set in the luxe kitchen of a British-Nigerian family, a vividly portrayed slice of Black British middle-class life crackles with humour, vigour and intelligence as you realise that this is a hugely under-represented section of society in terms of cultural portrayals more generally and particularly on theatrical stages.
High-flying Tory-voting Tiwa and Segun have settled into a life of earned but now complacent privilege, indulging the diametrically opposed viewpoints of their police officer son and junior doctor daughter with whom family dinners quickly descend into squabbling slanging matches. Into this slick but uneasy world comes Wunmi, the bereaved wife of a patient of the doctor’s who is struggling mentally. Invited into the home by this family who believe they can ‘fix’ her, what could possibly go wrong?
As per, quite a lot as it happens, but sadly not in a way that convinces. In the attempts to create dramatic tension, the wildly differing worldviews of so many of the characters means that their interactions ring false, there’s little credibility in this family home. And then when Wunmi, more dramatic device than character is thrown into the mix, this inconsistency is exacerbated even more as her presence causes the play to make any argument it wants to from minute to minute, thereby reducing the emotional stakes to almost negligible levels.
It’s a real shame as the opening half hour does show real promise, and the performances of a strong cast – Gloria Obianyo’s Ore (the doc) and Donna Berlin’s Tiwa (the mum) are particularly impactful – go a long way to covering the some of the cracks in Monique Touko’s production. But a tendency to melodramatic, in both staging and writing, means The Clinic never really hits the spot.