Middle Child and Arcola Theatre’s radiant gig theatre production charts a young black man’s lived experience – one which is passionately told.
Writer and performer Daniel Ward’s semi-autobiographical story about life in private school is rich in emotion, which is only accentuated with blooming, vibrant instrumentals. Cellists Rachel Barnes and Laurie Jamieson bring a classical and operatic touch to the drama, while Nigel Taylor’s soundboard introduces the hip-hop and rap influences.
Together, they form a musical mash-up akin to Clean Bandit, but as separate musical styles, they lend themselves to the eponymous fable at the heart of Daniel’s narrative, one which relates to white and black communities, and who has ‘the loudest song’ of the two birds.
As a narrator, Ward is honest and open-hearted with his exposition, revealing instances of racism and prejudice – each anecdote bookmarked by a different ‘lesson’ in school – in a candid and powerful fashion. The IT lesson becomes a shocking battle of facts versus personal experience, prompting a incisive monologue on responses to racism.
It is just one of several moments which really highlight Ward’s impressive and illustrative writing. A discussion around goals sees the protagonist proclaim that “ambition without opportunity kills people”. All of this is accentuated by bright and raw lighting design by Jessica Addinall, alternating between the pulsing red of anger and shining white for moments of reflection.
While some of Laurence’s humour whilst playing mumbling classmates and adults feel a tad out-of-place and exaggerative for a play of such severity, The Canary and the Crow still establishes a genuine connection with its audience – through beats with energy and storytelling with conviction.
The Canary and the Crow is now playing at the Arcola Theatre until 8 February.
Production Images: Richard Davenport/The Other Richard.
Disclaimer: I was invited to see The Canary and the Crow for free as someone who is currently a part of the Almeida Theatre’s Young Critics scheme, which sees us respond to artistic pieces. I did not receive any payment for my involvement in the scheme or for this review, and all opinions stated above are honest and my own.