Trilogy triumph

Revelations (Tangram Theatre)

Theatre Republic, La Boite Studio

September 13 – 14

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James Rowland is quite the storyteller. The first two shows of his Songs of Friendship trilogy are testament to this and in “Revelations” this tradition continues, with Rowland making expert use of alliteration and evocative language to paint the perfect picture with words so as audience members we can easily fill in any gaps with our own imaginations. The story this time is of what happens when James’s friends Sarah and Emma ask the essential man-child for his sperm to start a family.

While Rowland’s storytelling trilogy to an extent shares the same cast of characters and an element of autobiography, there’s a deliberately blurry line between fact and fiction as we are taken through the opening words of “Team Viking” “I’m going to tell you a story and all of it is true” to “A Hundred Different Words for Love”, which starts with assurance that “none of it is true”.

Wonder around authenticity aside, “Revelations” is a crafted piece of theatre, like the others in the revelatory storytelling cycle about love, life, friendship and death. Through-lines are threaded together not just throughout this work but those that have gone before it (though this does not serve as a barrier to stand-alone viewing), from little touches of apparent throw-always statements to the epic impact of its big themes of the search for faith sort. Indeed, it is a real treat to see how Rowland interweaves seemingly such unrelated strands as snow days, foxes, friendship and Christian youth camp recollections, with a sprinkling of nuanced pop culture references for added humorous effect.

Audience interaction is utilised in this show more than its predecessors, beginning with audience record of a song for Rowland’s niece’s birthday and continuing as ‘volunteers’ pray in tongues and catch him when falling as hint at the approaching apocalyptic-esque crescendo ending, like that prophesised in its biblical namesake. Its conclusion represents a burst of release of emotion as Rowland becomes preacher of his own sermon. Again, this shows how he is a master controller of ebb and flow and the power of evocative pause in the show’s combination of story, comedy and song – each accompanied by his own music live on stage. And he is clearly committed to the performance, even if it involves disrobing all of his clothes.

With a direction that is far from predictable, “Revelations” represents an engaging and energising theatrical experience of its own merit, but also serves as a triumphant and cathartic end to a humorous but heartfelt trilogy that we are lucky to have hosted as part of this year’s Brisbane Festival.