EDINBURGH 2019: BWW REVIEW: THE CANARY AND THE CROW, Summerhall
In the final moments of The Canary And The Crow, Daniel Ward effortlessly puts into spoken word the core differences, issues and divides he felt as a black man going to a predominantly white, private, all-boys school.
But it goes way past high school, past teenage prejudices and into cultural appropriation. Ward fires potency and perfectly placed anger at the entire audience as to why society feels the need to strip away all markers of individual identity and difference. The Canary and the Crow is his very own fable, the moral of which is woefully ignored in the current climate.
And even through this passionate plea, rallying against the condemnation of otherness, joy abounds in the production. Energy from Nigel Taylor's liquid chill performance - he effortlessly drops rhymes composed by Prez 96 (his rapper alias) - gives The Canary and the Crow a musical soul, a beat, a purpose. Collaborating with James Frewer fuses Taylor's lyrical vibrancy with classical pieces, as rich purple tones from cellists/performers Rachel Barnes and Laurie Jamieson highlight the clashing of themes and put Ward in the overlap.
A foot in two worlds, sometimes feeling safe in both. Sometimes belonging to neither.
Through Ward's adept narration, the show also cleverly highlights how early on in childhood such segregation can be felt. Fully understood? Maybe not. But in a million tiny ways Ward recognised that he was being treated differently. From teachers condemning and forbidding language, to classmates circling like sharks to extract knowledge, to a male role model who turns out to be another disappointment, Paul Smith's direction ensures that each of these micro-aggressions are subconsciously marked.
Each pierces Ward's soul, confidence and individuality. Each is designed to slowly bring him into line. Thankfully, Ward is strong enough not to conform.
This latest piece of gig theatre by renowned company Middle Child is one of the jewels in its crown. It makes a socio-political point without ever feeling like a lecture or a lesson, particularly difficult to do given the setting. And while harbouring a poignant message, Ward's exuberance and infectious smile are more than enough to get the audience to its feet with joy and jubilation.
Image courtesy of The Other Richard