James Rowland’s own description of himself in his latest piece is better than one I could craft: “the son of Richard Curtis” suits him perfectly. A Hundred Different Words For Love sits on the same Curtis-esque cusp of cheesy, but narrowly avoids cloying sweetness through an undeniable sincerity – one so vibrant that even a cynical reviewer can’t deny it.
As even Rowland himself admits, the thought of another story about a white, heterosexual man’s lost love feels tiring. While the premise of the piece certainly does smack of self-indulgence, A Hundred Different Words manages to overstep that by delivering an hour that is simultaneously deeply personal and deeply universal. It might not be anything new, but I’d maintain that there wasn’t anyone in the audience who couldn’t relate to some of this poignant hour.
With charm and charisma, Rowland has his audience on side from the get go and uses the intimacy of the venue to his advantage; we all feel involved and invested. Small piano interludes played by Rowlands are the only break to his storytelling and work well to segregate the two halves of the tale as he jumps from present day to the past. A repeated action, spliced throughout the piece to signify seconds passing, is a nice idea but proves a little clunky in practice, serving to disrupt the narrative more than it adds to it.
Rowland is a tender storyteller and although the piece does veer into sentimentality at times, what did you expect with a piece called A Hundred Different Words for Love? Perhaps it would do us all some good to simply enjoy the genuine spirit of this production, and allow ourselves to connect with the heart on display.
Words: Chiara Margiotta
A Hundred Different Words for Love, Summerhall, Aug 11-27 (not 20, 21), 4.30pm