Theatre review: Dominoes, Assembly George Square Studios

Writer and actress Phoebe McIntosh as Layla. Picture: Richard Budd
Writer and actress Phoebe McIntosh as Layla. Picture: Richard Budd
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“There’s only one thing worse than finding out you’re related to your fiancé,” says Layla. It becomes clear that she has discovered that her partner Andy’s ancestors “owned” her ancestors as slaves.

Dominoes, Assembly George Square Studios (Venue 17) ****

It’s an intriguing and inherently dramatic revelation – one that enables writer and performer Phoebe McIntosh to present Layla and her family with the question: how much should we let the atrocities of our shared past affect our individual futures?

Layla, who is mixed race and a history teacher, is clearly aware of both white privilege and racist prejudice. However, unlike her friend and colleague Laura, who devours news about the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s only when Layla starts researching her ancestry – motived by the fact that she has the same surname as her soon-to-be husband – that the history of slavery takes on a new and more immediate kind of relevance.

As a countdown to the wedding day begins, a white dress becomes an ever-present fixture, looming over events. Laura angrily relinquishes her role as bridesmaid and Layla starts to question whether marriage isn’t just another form of “ownership” – one that she will betray her ancestors by participating in.

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Trips to her grandfather’s house to play dominoes are the closest direct connection Layla has to her decedents, some of whom are Caribbean and some of whom are Scottish. Visiting him helps her to reconcile a need to acknowledge the past, while avoiding becoming trapped by it, as Laura seems to be.

The fascinating questions and conflicts the play sets up could be interrogated further, but Layla’s final statement that she’s now “a different person, but not in the way you think” both subtly undermines the cliché of fairytale weddings and the misconception that there are simple solutions to complex issues.

• Until 27 August, midday.