Drip Drip Drip at Pleasance Theatre
Among all Pipeline Theatre’s plays, Drip Drip Drip might be the densest and the most prescient. Spinning between an NHS ward and an immigration centre in Calais, it squeezes the deathbed of a Nazi sympathiser alongside the caged enclosure of an Eritrean child refugee and transforms a toilet cubicle into a lecture hall.
An immigrant nurse and Muslim doctor look after a disgraced former professor who’s obsessed with Hitler’s physician Karl Brandt: it might seem a binary concept, one that requires no further examination. But – as they’ve proved reliable in doing – Pipeline present their world with such naked humanity and such forensic care that they unpeel the outer layers and reveal the blueprint at the heart. While the subject matter is political, the play is human above all things, a presentation of these very specific characters, a “who” and a “why” rather than a neat answer.
Jon Welch’s expertly crafted script dispenses small insights and the cast of five crescendos it into something sublime. Ex-professor and cancer patient David, played with power-shifting nuance by David Keller, may be the closest a Pipeline stage has ever had to a baddie. But even he’s a heart-breaking conundrum: a lonely old man who lavishes upon his cat all the empathy he withholds from his fellow humans, who covets the happy relationship Karl Brandt had with his son, and who, interestingly, reacts with shamed anger when Doctor Rahmiya reads his lecture notes on race hierarchy. Rather than allowing others to make them reassess their ethos, this kind of bigot instead counts those individuals as exceptions to their rule.
Doctor Rahmiya – a flawless Lydia Bakelmun – is no fragile martyr. While she gives everything of herself to her job, she doesn’t owe anyone her niceness, remaining surly and blunt to those around her. Steadfast in her duty, we see her absorb David’s morphine-addled abuse. We rage on her behalf. We watch for her to crack. Michael Workeye is a joy as Eritrean trainee nurse Daniel. His approach to David is to listen, to tolerate, to see the dying man instead of the heinous racist, and to smile. And that smile is utterly disarming.
Through its realer-than-real characters, Drip Drip Drip recharges our empathy and sets our minds on new pathways. It’s a generous, tender snapshot of the world, an ember of hope in the darkness and a well-deserved homage to our NHS.
Photo: Steve Tanner
Drip Drip Drip is at Pleasance Theatre from 3rd March until 21st March 2020. For further information or to book visit Pipeline Theatre’s website here.