Hull-based Middle Child Theatre is one of Edinburgh Fringe’s recent big success stories. The company returns to the Paines Plough Roundabout this year with The Canary and the Crow, a semi-autobiographical, grime-influenced, gig-theatre show by Daniel Ward about his experiences as a poor, black kid on a scholarship at a rich, white school.
It’s a compelling story that sits much better here than it did at Latitude Festival a few weeks ago – compelling largely because of Ward, who anchors and narrates proceedings throughout. He’s big and bouncy, then confused and careful, convincingly wrestling with a life that swings between football and rugby, privilege and poverty, black and white.
That collision of identities plays out much better in his performance than in Prez 96 and James Frewer’s score, which unsettlingly fuses grime beats and cello music in an attempt to marry two different traditions, but which only ends up jumbled and jarring.
There are important issues raised here about how society twists black identities beyond recognition. It’s not always elegant – Ward’s writing is decidedly clunky at times – nor is it as euphoric as Middle Child’s best work, but it’s still a solid schooling in what it means to be young, talented and black nonetheless.