‘Gig Theatre’ seems to have exploded onto the scene this year and is providing audiences with new and unique ways to experience stories. Rather than the very traditional and at times staid forms of theatre, Gig Theatre grabs the audience’s attention as soon as they arrive and plays out with a more relaxed feel and great encouragement to get involved and even, at times, to interact with the actors.
The Roundabout at Summerhall is arguably one of the best venues at the Fringe and it works particularly well for Middle Child’s latest piece of Gig Theatre – The Canary and the Crow. The audience are wrapped round the stage, getting a 360 degree experience of the performance which follows the story of Daniel Ward (writer and performer) who saw his life change dramatically aged 11 when he was accepted to one of the most prestigious all-boys schools in the country.
Suddenly, he lived what he felt was a double life as one of the only black kids at his school. His life at home was lived on the streets with the associated lingo and the stereotype that young black men are more likely to end up in prison. His life at school introduced him to characters such as ‘Tarquin’ whose parents owned successful businesses and where horse-riding was a popular activity. Most shockingly to a young Daniel “it was not a football school.” They did rugby instead.
Ward has to navigate his way through both worlds realising the differences that his new white, middle class friends will never fully understand. He tells the tale using a poem with a moral and the construct of a school timetable, each chapter a lesson.
And then there is the music. Two cellists frame the play but it soon becomes clear that they are so much more that as Rachel Barnes and Laurie Jamieson take on a multitude of roles throughout the piece providing humour and light relief despite the obvious serious message behind the production. Nigel Taylor (AKA Prez 96) completes the quartet, flawlessly in control of the sound desk, rapping and taking on the role of Snipes, Ward’s cousin.
At times it is impossible to know who or what part of the stage to watch so arresting are all four of the performers. Together with a scintillating score by James Frewer and Prez 96 The Canary and the Crow will take the audience on an educational, emphatic and entertaining journey which is exactly how theatre at the Fringe should be.