ON May 3, 2015, Sheku Bayoh, a 31-year-old father of two from Sierra Leone, died in Kirkcaldy having been restrained by up to nine police officers.

The account of Mr Bayoh’s death given by the police is disputed by the dead man’s family.

In May of this year the Scottish Government finally announced the remit of the public inquiry into his death.

The inquiry will conclude by 2023 at the earliest, some eight years after Bayoh’s death.

As a subject of art, the life and death of Sheku Bayoh is about as traumatic as it gets. It speaks to concerns about racism in contemporary Scotland, and it resonates with a Scottish history of slavery and colonialism that is too often denied or forgotten.

This subject is a tall task for any writer. There could be few better to take it on, however, than black Scottish author Hannah Lavery.

Her excellent monologue The Drift, which she performed last year for the National Theatre of Scotland (NTS), is a powerful, personal reflection on Scottish identity. It is also a reflection on the shame at the heart of our nation’s racial history.

Lament For Sheku Bayoh, a new play for the NTS and Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre, is Lavery’s brave and ambitious attempt to address the facts and implications of this harrowing case.

It combines an array of documentary material with a broader, artistic reflection both on Bayoh and the Scotland he made his home at the age of 17.

READ MORE: How Scottish gig economy workers are fighting back as sector grows in pandemic

Streamed live from the stage of the Lyceum on Friday and last night, it was performed by a fine, all-female cast of actors Saskia Ashdown, Patricia Panther and Courtney Stoddart, and musician Beldina Odenyo.

The play segues between documentary theatre, poetic contemplation and occasional polemic, all supported by Odenyo’s emotive music, including arrangements of the songs of Robert Burns.

The sadness and tenderness of the piece is irresistible, not least in its reflections on the man Bayoh was: a father, a trainee gas engineer, a Scot, proudly wearing a kilt as he is photographed smiling with friends. Equally compelling are the play’s expression of the five years of disbelief and rage that have followed Bayoh’s death, and of the central place that it has taken in the Black Lives Matter movement here in Scotland.

Which is not to say that this work, in its Covid-enforced, streamed incarnation, is without its flaws. The ultimate success, or otherwise, of political drama (indeed, of any drama) depends not simply on the power of its subject, but on the effectiveness of its theatrical aesthetic.

Despite the best efforts of Lavery (who also directs) and video designer Ellie Thompson, the piece does not look like a work tailored to the possibilities of the internet. Rather (like so much of the online theatre that has, by necessity, been created during the pandemic) it appears to be merely a production created for the stage, which has had some video cameras put in front of it.

Such work is, almost inevitably, a shadow product. It is a pale reflection of the play it wants to be, performed not to cameras and distant, online viewers, but to a live and present theatre audience.

That said, the piece is somewhat awkward in its structure and uncomfortable in its shifts between dramatic genres. I imagine that, even if the ravages of the coronavirus had not forced it online, Lament For Sheku Bayoh would still have struck the theatregoer as a passionate, emotive but, ultimately, uneven work of live drama.