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Revelations review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘a hymn to storytelling’

James Rowland

The third part in James Rowland’s storytelling cycle sees him revisiting characters from previous chapters, from the emotional tsunami that was Team Viking and the endearing romcom A Hundred Different Words for Love. In that last show, James’ childhood friend Sarah got married. Now, in Revelations, she and her wife want to have a baby and they’d like him to help.

The form of the show echoes those of the previous two. Rowland interweaves the main plot with flashbacks to the protagonist and his friends’ childhood, attending church together and hanging out at Christian music festivals. Once again, he uses a keyboard and a loop pedal to break up the story.

Though some of the devices he deploys feel familiar, Rowland remains a captivating performer. His slightly rumpled demeanour belies total oratorical control over his material. He knows how to land each emotional beat. He knows how to build up suspense and upend expectations.

His tendency to focus on extremes of emotion – grief in particular – can be overwhelming at times; there’s a danger of it becoming numbing. But his stories are also flooded with love. They are celebrations of the deep bonds that can exist between friends.

Revelations is a hymn to the power of storytelling itself, as a way of connecting people, as a way of ordering the world, moving, uniting and uplifting an audience. The last moments, as he stands exposed before us and the music builds to a roar, border on the rapturous.

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Emotive and captivatingly performed conclusion to James Rowland’s storytelling cycle