But maybe rocking it is the wrong word for this intelligent, thoughtful and heartfelt piece of new gig theatre, in which grime and hip-hop meet classical music head-on in a story which tells of a young black boy who wins a scholarship to a private school and finds himself caught between two worlds, no longer belonging in either.
The Canary and the Crow. Photo by The Other Richard.
Middle Child’s work has often been raucous and euphoric, but this piece, written by Daniel Ward with music by Prez 96 and James Frewer, is in a much quieter key. It's a reminder that these Hull-based stars are a company with huge range. The musicianship is superb. The score beautifully reflects the internal conflict felt by Ward as he is othered by his new class-mates and then accepted as he becomes whitewashed. Meanwhile his older black friend from home, Snipes (Nigel Taylor), a kid who even as child felt old “as if he comes with a mortgage”, becomes a black statistic.
The show takes the form of a series of lessons, but what this parable really tells us is that ambition without opportunity kills people by squeezing the hope and the life from them.
The messages are more submerged in A Table Tennis Play (Underbelly), written by Sam Steiner and produced by Walrus who had a deserved Edinburgh hit with Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons. That was set in a world where the government introduces a daily word limit of 140 each and people become lost for words.
Here words become just as charged and slippery as young couple Cath and Cal return to Cath's old family home and the air raid shelter that has been recently discovered and opened up. It is full of her family’s possessions, among which is a ping-pong table which becomes a metaphor for life itself and the way we fill our time. The arrival of troubled teenage tennis prodigy Mia puts the couple off their game, particularly as Cath has not been entirely honest about why they are really there.
Rosa Robson and Euan Kitson in A Table Tennis Play. Photo by The Other Richard.
There is a subtlety in this hour that strikes me as not being entirely in fashion in a fringe full of shows that sock it to you on the nose. A Table Tennis Play deliberately takes its time and rewards patience as it meditates on the nature of time, the havoc it wrecks on relationships and the way it turns some things into rubbish and others into collectors items (think old vinyl and malt whisky). It also ruminates on how we spend so much time waiting for that one moment that we think will change everything. Ed Madden’s production has a crafty patience and performers Beth Holmes, Euan Kitson and Rosa Robson are all well worth your time.
The Canary and the Crow runs at Roundabout at Summerhall, Aug 14-19, 21-25.
A Table Tennis Play runs at Underbelly, Aug 13-25 .
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