THE great taboo in western society is coming to terms with its foundations being literally built on the profits of slavery.

Conversations are finally being held to drop its legacy in cities which prospered from the shameful trade – like Bristol.

It may have taken the Woke generation to begin this dialogue but the RSC’s new production of The Whip, in its Swan Theatre, is an important contribution to the debate.

Juliet Gilkes Romero’s play is set in London in 1833 as the storm rages around attempts to pass the Slavery Abolition Bill. The trouble is that this attempt to finally free colonial slaves has to be supported by honourable members who are also slave owners!

Morality and the battle of good over evil are never far from the core of this play as Whig Party chief whip Alexander Boyd, movingly played by Richard Clothier, attempts to steer the bill past Tory self-interest.

Against a stark set which morphs from House debates to dining room chatter, the emotional dialogue reaches a peak with the testament of slavery survivor Mercy Pryce, played by Debbie Korley. Her abolitionist speech, set to wonderful music by Akintayo Akinbode, is central to reinforcing the positive, powerful background of the role of women in this shameful passage. Children were being killed in cotton factories, the poor were dying on the streets, slaves were being tortured for profit.

This play underlines that the slavery debt has still not been morally paid. This work should, like Holocaust studies, be on the National Curriculum.

It’s a great historical play and debate in which we should engage.

The Whip runs until March 21, 2020. Box Office: 01789 403493.

John Murphy