The Clinic at Almeida Theatre
The Clinic is two hours of intense and powerful storytelling that is sure to set the audience ablaze.
The new play by Dipo Baruwa-Etti follows a family as they clash over political and ideological beliefs. It’s an all-black cast telling an all-black story but from different perspectives: the conservative Nigerian parents who raised a successful, and fairly high-powered family; their left-wing and liberal children; a police officer, MP and doctor, who are all fiercely passionate about change but fundamentally disagree on how to achieve it; and the outsider to the family, a widowed single mother and activist who is tired of fighting.
Wunmi is that single mother. And when her husband dies she turns to Ore for help, ultimately bringing her into the family. But with the addition of a new voice, the delicate family balance starts to crumble.
It’s a fairly classic family drama but it’s been boiled in different political viewpoints that war with each other, showing how even people in the same family, people who generally want the same things, can be divided by how to achieve those things or deciding what’s good for the cause and what isn’t.
The Clinic is phenomenally well written. Baruwa-Etti isn’t just a young writer to watch in the future, he’s one to watch right now. The blend of political ideologies and how they agree, tolerate or conflict with each other is powerful and interesting. Baruwa-Etti also does the small stuff interestingly. The script must be 20% longer than any other play simply for the amount the characters of talk over one another. This brings a fantastically real family dynamic to the show that you don’t realise has been missing from theatre until you see it. Of course families talk over each other, of course every line of speech isn’t perfectly placed one after the other; it’s a unique writing style but one that brings so much to the show.
For that to work, the performers have to nail the timings. And they do. There’s not a single weak link in this cast – but Gloria Obianyo as Ore certainly stands out, delivering an enviable performance.
There’s a slight pacing issue after the interval. The family disruption seems to have suddenly progressed rapidly despite no time actually having passed. It’s an odd, confusing quirk that challenges the believability of the story but otherwise, it’s hard to find fault here.
Ultimately, The Clinic is an incredibly well-polished show. The writing is impressive, the cast is great, the set is perfect. Even the programme feels like it’s had a little more effort go into it with its glossy, full bleed photo pages.
Photo: Marc Brenner
The Clinic is at Almeida Theatre from 3rd September until 1st October 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.