Tara Theatre, London – until 11 May 2017
There’s a database where you can look up the size of reparations paid to slave owners after slavery was abolished. In Dominoes, History teacher Leila and her fiancé Andy share the same last name – McKinnon. Andy’s white and Scottish, Leila’s half black-Caribbean. When curiosity gets the better of her in the run up to their half term wedding, she makes a discovery that pits family and friends against each other and threatens to destroy her big day.
Leila’s story is written and narrated by Phoebe McIntosh as a solo performance. Bookended by the GCSE History class she teaches, the rest of the piece is a pick ‘n’ mix of discoveries about herself and the people she cares most about. The issue of race loyalty springs to the forefront; what with #teamswirl and the venom directed at Serena Williams for getting engaged to a white guy (with whom she’s also having a baby) it’s certainly a relevant topic deserving of stage time.
McIntosh is a hugely watchable performer with good range and a velvety voice She shows good versatility in accent-driven characterisation and has a presence that never slips. Though Dominoes is a great showcase for her ability, its core ideas have enough body that they would stand up to development into a multi-character play.
As a writer, McIntosh shows a facility for storytelling, though her timeline here either gets a bit muddled or her writing doesn’t always clearly indicate flashbacks. She plays with the elasticity of language and flirts with spoken word, but doesn’t quite commit to the form. it will certainly be interesting to see what stylistic choices this emerging wordsmith makes in the future.
The studio space presents McIntosh and co-director Ann Akin with some challenges, namely the lack of elevation for either the audience or the performer. All on the same level, it’s hard to see from more than two rows back, and forget about it when she’s not standing. Costumes indicate some change of space, but more could be done to clarify transitions.
There’s a lot of promise in the piece, not in the least McIntosh’s talents as a writer and performer. With some minor script adjustments and a more forgiving venue, this story shows real potential for growth.