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Theater review; The Clinic, Almeida Theatre, Islington, 2022

Published:
5:47 PM September 14, 2022



The clinic

Almeida Theatre, Islington

****

What does that say about people who live in glass houses? is what Wunmi, a working-class single mother, realizes that the motives of the well-to-do black family that takes her in are anything but transparent.

Both social satire and thriller, Dipo Baruwa-Etti’s play explores the contemporary black experience through the prism of a stranger moving into a family home. There are echoes of Bruce Norris’ The Pain and the Itch and Pinter’s The Homecoming, along with an intoxicating touch of the supernatural. Director Monique Toucko’s artful production does justice to the big ideas and varied tone.


The clinic. Donna Berlin and Toyin Ayedun-Alase at the Almeida, Islington
– Credit: Marc Brenner

The play opens with the 60th birthday celebration of dad Segan (Maynard Eziashi,) a conservative psychotherapist and writer who bought his £2 million house from the sale of his self-help books. There’s an exquisite set from Paul Wills with a kitchen to die for – perhaps literally, as tensions rise. Overlapping dialogue artfully conveys the ambitions and grievances of the four family members. Mom Tiwa (Donna Berlin) volunteers at a women’s shelter and downplays her academic accomplishments as she plays the devoted wife – all bouncy hair and throwaway “loves” to her ungrateful clan. His daughter Ore (Gloria Obianyo) is a trainee doctor, insightful and always morose about the NHS and the unequal treatment of its black patients and his son Bayo (Simon Manyonda) is a police officer married to Labor MP Amina (Mercy Ojelade). Both are too preoccupied with themselves to be of much use.


Gloria Obianyo in The Clinic

Gloria Obianyo in The Clinic
– Credit: Marc Brenner

No wonder the family needs a project: the feverish Wunmi (Toyin Ayedun-Alase) they all love, has an otherworldly glow. Tiwa brews a unique tea infusion that is mysteriously soothing, generously drunk by all, and soon Wunmi is addicted. When Segan falls for Wunmi’s spell, she embraces the power shift. Sometimes the action pauses on stills, as the lighting changes from warm neon to cool neon, or eerie red, suggesting the demonic may be setting in.

But from whom: the family or Wunmi? The structure is somewhat sketchy, and the characters often repeat and exaggerate issues. The acting, however, is impeccable as lives implode. More tea, anyone?


Toyin Ayedun-Alase in The Almeida Clinic

Toyin Ayedun-Alase in The Almeida Clinic
– Credit: Marc Brenner

Until October 1 at The Almeida, Islington. Visit almeida.co.uk/whats-on/the-clinic/3-sep-2022-1-oct-2022

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