IN BRIEF NHS staff battle racism in an alarming, intriguing and vital play for our unstable times
“We don’t tolerate “Othering”” says Steven the NHS Manager to Doctor Rahmiya. But “othering” is everywhere in Pipeline Theatre’s DRIP DRIP DRIP, a complex look at the “cancer” of racism and the ways it impacts upon two victims of that prejudice.
David, a white nationalist ex-lecturer learns he has brain cancer. In hospital he encounters overstretched yet measured and professional oncologist Rahmiya and charmingly hopeful nursing assistant Daniel, a refugee from Eritrea who is haunted by separation from his younger brother.
Agitated, fussy and ill at ease with himself and others, David is socially isolated, with only his cat to care for; he presents a pathetic yet still dangerous figure. Even Rahmiya falls into the trap of allowing herself to feel sorry for him, even going out of her way to feed his cat. But when the true horror of his beliefs are exposed, their corrosive nature test those attempting to care for him.
“It’s not about you” David blusters to Rahmiya after his beliefs have been exposed, fully aware how repellent his ideas are and embarrassed at their outing. But as we have seen, people can be incited to hate groups far more easily than individuals.
The absurdity of a dying man prejudiced against those who are keeping our healthcare system afloat (and him alive) seems an apt metaphor for a country rabidly desperate to cut off its own nose to spite its face.
The play’s writing (by Jon Welch, who also directs) is intriguing, twisty and at times challenging. There is an admirable even-handedness in the writing in that it takes on a range of assumptions, each of which can be seen as shaded and not binary, highlighting the reality that everyone is human. The range of differences in play are intriguing – man/woman, young/old, British-born/ Refugee, Christian/ Muslim, and make for a complex context through which the characters navigate. It was only the very last scene which I felt was a little unnecessary after the excellent scene which preceded it and, to me, felt like a more natural ending.
The acting is first-rate throughout. Lydia Bakelmun plays Rahmiya with a restraint and humanity that highlights her caring nature whilst also subtly pointing up the way that life, work and once-removed childcare is wearing her down. Her composure contrasted with David’s rantings speaks volumes about integrity and humanity.
David Keller is very effective as elderly paranoid David, out of control, out of time and out of love. His performance made my skin crawl (in the intended way). Michael Workeye brings a youthful , hopeful yet haunted Daniel to life with great charm and brotherly care in an impressive stage debut.
The design (by Alan and Jude Mundin) is ingenious in its creative use of a number of hospital-related components; there is also clever use of projections, all making the most of the limited stage area.
Towards the end of the play, David’s death may be seen as a symbolic triumph, however the play reminds us that there are plenty of people waiting in the wings to continue the bigotry; the kind of people on the bus who shout at Rahmiya’s children to “go home”. But as Rahmiya says, “how do you go home when you are already there?”
DRIP, DRIP, DRIP runs at The Pleasance Downstairs until March 21st. Information and tickets here
One gripe. On my visit there was no cast sheet or other information available – very disappointing to audiences but also, surely, to the cast and crew themselves. Credit where it’s due please!