The Clinic

Almeida Theatre, Islington


What’s that saying about people living in glass houses,’ is the observation made by Wunmi, a working class single mother, when she realises that the motives of the affluent black family who take her in are anything but transparent.

Part social satire, part thriller, Dipo Baruwa-Etti’s play explores contemporary Black experience through the prism of an outsider moving into a family home. There are echoes of Bruce Norris’s The Pain and the Itch, and Pinter’s The Homecoming, plus a heady dash of the supernatural laced throughout. Director Monique Toucko’s slick production does justice to the big ideas and varied tone.

The play opens with the 60th birthday celebration for dad Segan (Maynard Eziashi,) a Tory-voting psychotherapist and writer who has bought his £2m house from sales of his self-help books. There’s an exquisite set by Paul Wills with a kitchen to die for - perhaps literally, as tensions rise. Overlapping dialogue cannily conveys the ambitions and grievances of the four family members. Mum Tiwa (Donna Berlin) volunteers at a women’s shelter and plays down her academic achievements as she plays up the devoted wife - all bouncy hair and throwaway "love yous" to her unappreciative clan. Daughter Ore (Gloria Obianyo) is a trainee doctor, perspicacious and always spouting gloom about the NHS and the unequal treatment of its black patients and son Bayo (Simon Manyonda) is a policeman married to Labour MP Amina (Mercy Ojelade). Both are too self-preoccupied to be of much use.

No wonder the family needs a project: febrile Wunmi (Toyin Ayedun-Alase) who they all appreciate, has an otherworldly glow. Tiwa makes a unique tea brew that is mysteriously calming, liberally drunk by all and soon Wunmi is hooked. When Segan falls under Wunmi’s spell, she embraces the power shift. At times action freeze-frames, as lighting changes from warm to cool neon, or sinister red, suggesting the demonic may take hold.

But of whom: the family or Wunmi? The structure is somewhat schematic and characters often repeat and overstate the issues. The acting though is faultless as lives implode. More tea, anyone?

On until October 1 at The Almeida, Islington. Visit