The Clinic is the fourth, final and possibly most hard-hitting play in the King’s Head Theatre’s inaugural LBGTQ season of shows, looking at the darker drug-fuelled nature of the gay community and the effects this has on people’s lives. Written by Patrick Cash, it focuses on Ash and Elliot, who go on a date through Grindr (as you do). As one tries to reduce his use of mephedrone and G, the other struggles with his recent HIV diagnosis.
Having been influenced by hours of interviews and unprecedented access to a NHS sexual health clinic in Soho, The Clinic has frank moments that everyone, whatever age, gender or sexuality, can relate to. Anyone who has ever been to the clinic, or even a doctor’s surgery, will understand that feeling of waiting, of intrusion into their personal life, but also those liberating and intimate feelings that come from talking to a doctor. These feelings are all touched upon, as well as the ways in which the moments continue to affect you long after you’ve left.
The play tries to do so many different things that at times it muddles aspects, mixing drama with poetry, monologues, video interludes and physical theatre. Overall it could benefit from a tighter script, however, these small issues don’t overshadow the positives of the play.
There’s a really beautiful moment when Elliot, played by Damien Killen, addresses his school about his experience growing up as a gay man, and it’s one of those speeches that sticks with you. I felt it spoke directly to me, reminding me of both how I felt in school and the lack of education I had there, bringing tears to my eyes. Education on sexuality and drugs is something that is extremely important, because a lack thereof opens a void and affects young people at one of the defining points in their lives.
Killen makes so much of the character with his naturally fluid delivery and Zachariah Fletcher, as Ash, is a great balance for him. Their relationship is endearing as they battle together against their situations and focus on their connection, which is really felt on stage.
Between the humour there’s a theme of morality running through the play, which gives insights into addiction, sex, glorification of drug usage, intimacy issues, the rise of the app culture and how we let things affect our lives. The issue of being an HIV positive man and how society looks at you is saddening to see, shedding light on how far we’ve come but how far we’ve still to go in both personal and social mentality.
The Clinic is contextually a very strong piece of theatre, tackling issues head-on and throwing them in your face. The King’s Head Theatre is not afraid to put on a production that aims to educate and give a voice to important issues. I hope it continues to do so.