Phoebe McIntosh
Phoebe McIntosh, Lighthouse Poole and Black Theatre Live
Assembly George Square Studios

Phoebe McIntosh

If you fell in love with someone who had your surname, you might be tempted to check out family history. And Layla Roxanne McKinnon is a history teacher who knows how to do the checking.

Phoebe McIntosh as Layla, the light-skinned black person, reveals in an entertaining, often amusing monologue what happens when her research reveals an uncomfortable connection.

It turns out that ancestors of her boyfriend Andy McKinnon are listed in the University College London database among the slave owners paid compensation in the 1830s for the loss of their “property” as a result of the abolition of slavery.

Her friend Laura, watching news reports of another unarmed black man shot dead in Dallas, is not surprised. And gesturing towards the Black Lives Matter protests on the screen, she suggests dumping Andy.

But love isn’t so easy to dump, so Layla suggests to the puzzled Andy that they get married with a new surname or perhaps just have a party instead of a wedding. Subsequently explaining her discovery, he asks why something so long ago matters, to which she points out they stayed in his family’s very big house in Scotland that was a product of slave money.

She feels she is “standing at the church staring down the barrel of the aisle.”

Stuck for a solution, she takes herself off for a conversation with her grandfather with whom she plays dominoes once a month.

Phoebe McIntosh gives a warm, engaging performance that includes her vivid recreation of the dialogue between characters and some striking lyrical passages as Layla talks about Laura, Andy and branches of the family tree where “so many snapped off in storms.”

Earlier this year, the government treasury tweeted the “good news” that in 2015 the UK taxpayers finally paid off the debt resulting from the compensation pay out to slave owners of the equivalent of £16.5bn for the loss of their “property”.

Although slaves and their descendants were given no compensation, by paying taxes they very generously helped to pay off debts that created many of the super rich of this country.

Of course all that was a long time ago. It can’t matter now can it?

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna