A Hundred Different Words for Love (Tangram Theatre)
Theatre Republic, La Boite Studio
September 12 – 14
“A Hundred Different Words for Love” is a show about love, but it’s maybe more about words, words, words …. including consideration of it they still matter if not true. Thankfully, James Rowland is a master of words; he is a gifted storyteller who is adept at using beautiful language to make even the mundane interesting, evoking the figurative language of the script in a nuanced physical performance. Indeed, the show also demonstrates Rowland’s conviction as a performer through the things he will do for the affirmation of audience laughter. Gimmicky antics, however, are not necessary as the story is full of genuine humour, as the audience is led through an exploration of love and why one word is just not enough.
At its core, “A Hundred Different Words for Love” is about the pitfalls of being unable to express one’s feelings as we see Rowland recount meeting, wooing and falling for a girl to whom he ultimately cannot bring himself to say that big little word. At his retelling, including assumption of any necessary additional roles, we are taken through the usual romantic comedy milestones of first date, weekends away, a break-up and possible make-up, without cliché. As they appropriately are in his other of Rowland’s Songs of Friendship trilogy works, James’s friends feature throughout the story, which allows opportunity for him to jump out of the main tale to pepper it with memories and anecdotes of their bonds, without disruption to the cohesion of the show. And while there is less plot than in the initial work of the trilogy, “Team Viking”, the story is still well crafted in its call-backs to earlier not-so-random mentions.
Rowland is a vibrant and commanding, yet humble performer; it is difficult to deliberately deliver casualness but his mastery of this is what creates so much of the show’s engagement. While not the triumph of “Team Viking”, his ode to a lost friend, this is a charming show that will endear itself into audience affections. In an intimate venue such as his La Boite Studio Brisfest home, this connection is only amplified and shows that the best storytellers do not need all the extras of staging and props to enliven audience imaginations. (The only real addition to its spoken word performance is Rowland’s live keyboard playing, looped and overlapped with story-telling). “A Hundred Different Words for Love” is observational comedy in its richest form that, in the hands of this skilled performer, easily takes its audiences from humour to hope.