Pleasance Theatre, London – until 21 March 2020
At a time when headlines reduce the debate around racism to good or bad, black or white, Drip Drip Drip is a masterly exercise in exploring the grey. Does defending racists make you a racist? Does being racist mean you’re irredeemable? Is experiencing racism necessarily depleting? Can racist policies empower as well as isolate? All of these themes run through Jon Welch’s beautiful script.
We open on David, a Nazi apologist, rehearsing a lecture on Karl Brandt, head of Hitler’s ‘euthanasia programme’. The fact that Brandt loved his son, Karl Adolf, is vital to David’s argument that the Nazi should not have been hanged after his trial at Nuremberg.
Does defending racists make you a racist?
As he works through his slides, Rahmiya – a posh cancer consultant at the local hospital – is having a phone argument with her husband about childcare. When David turns up for tests and is immediately admitted, his primary concern is living long enough to deliver the lecture. Hers is organising David’s palliative care and the welfare of his beloved cat.
It is the relationship between David and Rahmiya that drives the action in Drip Drip Drip, but a lot is happening around them. Trainee nurse, Daniel, a refugee from Eritrea, is desperate to spring his brother from the jungle camp in Calais. Having escaped brutal racism at home, he has learned to manage the UK’s passive prejudice. His trick is to smile and keep moving and hope that he’ll pull the doubters along with him. Unshocked by David’s morphine-fuelled outbursts, he finds an extraordinary connection that creates a momentary friendship.
It’s different for Rahmiya. Second-generation British, and wearing a hijab by choice, it pulverises her that her children are told to ‘Go home’ when on the bus to school. She and David fall out after she sees his lecture notes. He is deeply ashamed. When she won’t discuss it, he goes on the attack. Nonetheless, she works to find a new home for his cat, and he is genuinely upset when her children are abused.
Love is redemptive
Like Roy Williams’ current play at the National Theatre, The Death of England, Drip Drip Drip exposes the conflicted British response to people who are ‘other’. Even when objecting to their presence in principle, they will protect the individual ‘others’ that they know.
This is as beautifully demonstrated in Rahmiya’s actions as David’s. David is ‘othered’ by his views – not just to Rahmiya but within our multicultural, international, NHS. Nonetheless, her final action is to save the cat that allowed her to access his humanity. Love is redemptive.
Drip Drip Drip is expertly directed by its writer, Jon Welch. David Keller as David, Lydia Bakelmun as Rahmiya, and Michael Workeye as Daniel have us in their thrall from the off. Alan Munden (who also designs with Jude Munden) and Girum Bekele are excellent supports. It’s theatre at its best.