ED2017 Chris Meets ED2017 Interviews ED2017 Theatre

James Rowland: A Hundred Different Words For Love

By | Published on Wednesday 12 July 2017

Prior to last year’s Festival, as we surveyed the breadth of 2016’s Fringe programme, our interest was well and truly piqued when we came across the show called ‘Team Viking’. Which meant we were rather pleased when it turned out to be a great piece that our reviewer really loved.
That play was created by one of the busiest performers of the 2017 Festival, James Rowland, who returns this year with a new solo show – ‘A Hundred Different Words For Love’ – among other commitments. I spoke to James, to find out more about him, his work and what to expect from the new show.

CC: Let’s start at the start, how did you get into the theatre game?
JR: As a young boy I would sit and watch Laurence Olivier’s Shakespeare films and speak along with them. I lived almost exclusively in my imagination and read a lot rather than engage with the changes of adolescence… obviously this deep engagement with reality set me on the path I follow today.

CC: Let’s talk ‘Team Viking’ – what made you decide to create your own solo show?
JR: I had skirted around the idea of making a show for a while but I had never followed through. Then, in 2015, a combination of unemployment, heartbreak and a story that I really wanted to tell removed the resistances that there had previously been to making a show.

CC: It was very well received at last year’s Fringe. What was that like?
JR: Ha! I dunno really, it was nice that people liked it. A bottom line for me is that audience members don’t feel like I’ve taken an hour away from them that they’d rather have spent elsewhere. That may seem like a low bar to set, but bearing it in mind stops any sort of pretension or anxiety creeping in at the edges and getting in the way of offering the best hour I can offer on any one day.

CC: How does ‘A Hundred Different Words For Love’ compare?
JR: It is set in the same universe, so it involves the same people and begins not long after ‘Team Viking’ finishes. The major change, I suppose, is that rather than terminal illness and death, the central subject is love. So it’s much more depressing! It does also share the theme of friendship, so it’s not all bleak.

CC: How do you go about creating the solo shows? Do you lock yourself in a room and write, or does the script emerge from performance?
JR: Well, actually I spend several months just jotting down ideas and researching, and then I improvise the whole thing for the director and dramaturg, the very clever Daniel Goldman. He pans for gold in amongst the guff and we have a proper chat about how it’s going to be shaped. I then go around to lots of friends flats, give them wine, apologise, and improv it over and over until there is a shape I can bear to transcribe, at which point Dan steps back in and polishes the turd.

CC: You have debuted your shows at the Vault Festival in London and then brought them to Edinburgh. Is the Vault Festival a good place to try out future Edinburgh shows?
JR: Absolutely, but I would go further than that: without the Vault Festival neither of my shows would exist. It is unbelievably supportive of new work, it makes it possible to take the risk of creation financially and artistically. It also has a phenomenally switched on and intelligent audience that grows year on year… Is it possible to have a crush on an arts festival in some tunnels? You shut up, you love a festival.

CC: Has Edinburgh become part of your calendar? Do you feel the need to write a new solo show every year now?
JR: Well, the Fringe has been a part of my calendar ever since I first came here, performing in an interactive show called ‘You Once Said Yes’, long before I made ‘Team Viking’. It is a magical month and reasons to not attend would have to be pretty strong, I’m yet to find one… That being said, when it comes to making solo shows, who knows? I don’t plan too far into the future and it is lovely to work with other people.

CC: A full Edinburgh run is famously hard work, especially with a solo show. How are you preparing?
JR: Well, I’m preparing by constantly doing solo shows. Since Vault Festival I have been constantly on tour with the fringe juggernaught and slice of theatrical heaven that is ‘Every Brilliant Thing’. It’s taken me around the UK and to the other side of the world so I’m feeling pretty match fit. I’ll need to be as I’m doing both ‘A Hundred Different Words For Love’ and ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ for the last week of the Fringe, as well as two ‘Knightmare Live!’ shows in Week One and two ‘Team Viking’ shows in Week Two.

CC: You’ve acted in a number of what I think we’re meant to call ‘immersive theatre’ productions – including two based on classic TV shows, the aforementioned ‘Knightmare’ and ‘The Crystal Maze’. What were they like?
JR: Joy. Joy and fun. ‘Knightmare Live!’ is up at the Fringe for the first couple of Sundays.

CC: How do projects like that compare to more conventional acting gigs – and the solo shows?
JR: They are obviously very different and necessarily so… solo performing is wonderful fun and a real challenge and privilege, but it’s great to have contrast.

CC: Finally, tell us about your tie-up with Paines Plough – what’s that all about?
JR: The  ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ show I mentioned is produced by Paines Plough, so I’ve been working with them since February. As well as that, in the final week of the Fringe, I’m also doing a one off ‘Team Viking’ in their wonderful venue, the Roundabout at Summerhall, on 16 Aug.

James performed in ‘A Hundred Different Words For Love’ at Summerhall, in ‘Team Viking’ at Bob’s Monkey Barrel and Paines Plough Roundabout at Summerhall, in ‘Knightmare Live’ at Underbelly George Square, and in ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ at Paines Plough Roundabout at Summerhall at Edinburgh Festival 2017.