James Rowland may not strike you as a sperm donor if you met him in the street, but this is a man prepared to go to the ends of the earth to help his best friend and her wife find their happy ending. If you are familiar with his previous work, then you will recognise the strikingly candid nature of this heart-wrenching tale of love, loss, faith and friendship.
Revelations is desperately sad, yet ultimately hopeful
From the get-go, Rowland’s sheer exuberance is limitless: bounding from one side of the room to the other with a puppy-dog beam and arms akimbo, it isn’t hard to get caught up in the magic of his storytelling. Whether dancing in the snow or sneaking out after dark as a kid, scenes are conjured with an absolute clarity that pulls us right into the heart of the action. It is this clarity which allows the story to jump chronologically: we become intimate onlookers in pivotal moments throughout James’ life, which in turn lend themselves to a beautiful thematic interweaving as the show progresses.
Rowland’s handling of some incredibly sensitive subject material reveals the tenderness and reverence he has for both his childhood friend Sarah and her spouse Emma. There is an unashamed openness to his delivery, with perfectly-crafted moments of stillness leaving the audience hanging on every word. Some may find parts distressing, particularly a hospital scene which prompts the warnings in the Fringe guide, but our trust in Rowland as a narrator is well-placed as he navigates the highs and lows of this tale with touching familiarity.
For me, one element of the production that was a little hit and miss was the use of multimedia: a keyboard, microphone and loop pedal are used to create a choir of storytellers (James is clearly a talented singer) that serve to underscore particular transitions. It’s a nice link to the church-service roots of James and Sarah’s friendship, but there were occasions where this felt a little overwhelming and risked eclipsing a moment which I would argue deserved more dignity.
Revelations is desperately sad, yet ultimately hopeful - a show that will stay with you long after you have left the theatre. Prepare to laugh, then cry, then laugh again.