After a second tour, Drip Drip Drip transfers to London’s Pleasance Theatre next week. Writer-director Jon Welch explains how the fast-shifting new world order inspired the play, set on an NHS oncology ward, and how he works with his Pipeline Theatre co-founders, designers Jude and Alan Munden. Time to get booking!
Written and directed by Jon Welch, Drip Drip Drip transfers for a three-week season at London’s Pleasance Theatre from 3 to 21 March.
Amidst the backdrop of Brexit Britain, Pipeline Theatre’s latest play takes a look at Britain’s much-loved NHS and the complexities, and often uncomfortable truths, faced when taboos are confronted by reality. Drip Drip Drip takes us into a microcosm where an NHS care team finds itself treating an alt-right Islamophobe and disgraced academic, who happens to be terminally ill and desperately clinging on to his own sense of entitlement and toxic beliefs.
Drip Drip Drip is designed by Pipeline core team members Alan and Jude Munden, with music and sound by writer, director and fellow founder Jon Welch. The cast are David Keller, Lydia Bakelmun, Micheal Workeye, Girum Bekele and Alan Munden.
Drip Drip Drip is at London’s Pleasance Theatre 3-21 March 2020
Talking to… Jon Welch
Jon Welch writes and directs all of the plays for Cornwall-based Pipeline Theatre, which he co-founded and runs with designers Alan and Jude Munden. The company is new writing, indelible characters and immersive production values, gaining access to the big issues through the back-window of “unremarkable lives”. Drip Drip Drip is the company’s sixth show. Their previous productions include Transports, Streaming, Spillikin, Swivelhead and Spillikin.
What was the inspiration for Drip Drip Drip?
The main inspiration was suddenly finding myself in a new world order (austerity, Trump, Brexit), and from that, seeing how complex arguments had turned into an ill-tempered stand-off between two tribes who each believe firmly that the other side doesn’t understand them. Supposedly progressive, multi-cultural, intellectually elitist/snobbish ‘citizens of nowhere’ on one side, and on the other, those who have been spat out as the collateral damage of free-market, globalised venture capitalism, citizens of former ‘somewheres’, whose ‘somewhere’ has been abandoned by the state, taken over by Jeff Bezos and Betfred, lost its cultural heart, and sometimes overwhelmed by what they perceive to be unmanaged immigration.
The choice of the NHS as the setting is a no-brainer: it is one of the most multi-ethnic employers in our country, a true melting pot
That’s the overview. There is, however, clearly another collateral damage going on, and that is to different races, religions and ethnic minorities in our society. The hostile environment, the Windrush scandal, our shameful failure to bring thousands of lost child refugees over from Calais, Islamophobia, anti-semitism, the new and abhorrent sense of voiced racism being somehow given top-down legitimacy.
Within all that is my own stuff. I’m an agnostic, white male in my 50s, and I have all the conditioned, internal biases that that implies. I like to sound like I’m on the side of the angels, but in truth, I don’t know what I think I about religions, and religiously circumscribed ethnic cultures to which I have no social connection. I needed to write this play almost so as to keep jabbing myself, and asking these questions, and at least make the effort to put myself in the way of those messy human issues that it would be easier to just avoid making eye-contact with.
The choice of the NHS as the setting is a no-brainer for me: it is one of the most multi-ethnic employers in our country, a true melting pot, where any arguments about the ‘contribution’ made by immigrants become unnecessary.
The three main characters are very different. What are motivations?
David has lost his professorship and reputation seemingly at the hands of ‘snowflakes’ and kneejerk virtue-signallers. He is the worst person this could happen to, in that he is competitive, an ideologue who rates his rationalism above empathy. He wants legitimacy, restoration, a legacy, and he wants it in the short time he has left to him. He can see himself dying just as the tide of history seems to be turning with him. But beneath those wants are needs that he’s frightened of giving a name to – love, human contact, with those he is suddenly now surrounded by in hospital, and particularly with his estranged, absent son.
He can see himself dying just as the tide of history seems to be turning with him.
Rahmiya’s needs are conflicted: she wants to be diligent, reliable, competent in her professional life. Eating away at this is the background hum of bias (against her ethnicity, her religion) that will soon also affect her young children, exhaustion, a total absence of work-life balance, and also a very human tendency to occasionally find herself ‘loving’ one of her patients. Her tragedy is that this patient will turn out to be the mouthpiece of everything that threatens her family’s capacity to call the UK home.
Daniel’s needs are also conflicted. As a refugee, he has had no choice in leaving his homeland, and the UK has been sold to him as the only game in town. He needs it to be a positive thing, and his circumstances have been so perilous that he will find positivity wherever he can. But he is also missing someone – his brother, who has suffered mentally more obviously than him, and is trapped in France, slowly deteriorating. Daniel’s need to make the best impression is undercut by his need to endlessly check up on, and help, his brother.
Tell us about Pipeline Theatre.
We formed about six years ago, wanting to make black-box studio plays that take on the big, resonant social issues of the day, but in a way that is character-driven, funny, often ‘low-key’, and most importantly – relatable. From an audience point of view, our plays are seductions rather than assaults, although people will often tell us after our shows that we have emotionally eviscerated them!
Since we formed we’ve made plays about fostering, the Kindertransport, mental health, drone warfare, the online sex industry and the use of AI in aged/dementia care. We also run a community theatre strand, working with large local casts of first-timers, many with significant mental/physical health issues.
In our touring work, to balance our hard-won emphasis on naturalism, our design strives to immerse and dazzle. I writes the plays, but Jude and Al Munden (both makers, designers, set/prop/costume/puppet-makers) are organically integral in the overall conception of each play and its subsequent creative journey. Design and text develop together. This combination makes small rural or studio venues often feel like they’re getting a ‘bigger’ play than would seem possible in their spaces.
And that’s all we are – the three of us. Which means all the admin, marketing, tour booking, funding applications, out-reach, etc, etc, falls on just the three of us. And it’s for this reason, and this reason only, that we all look so very old.
Drip Drip Drip tours from 11 February 2020, concluding in London from 3 to 21 March 2020 at the Pleasance Theatre, Carpenters Mews, North Road, London N7 9EF, where performances run Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 6pm. Tickets are priced £14-16. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!