James Rowland is so relaxed, so comfortable and honest. He tells us a story – he reminds us that it’s fictional but it feels so real, such is his prowess in the narration. Instantly likeable, he speaks with humility, the astonishment of being lucky enough to have good things in his life, thankful for everything he has. Instantly we buy his tale, we laugh with him and feel for him. A Hundred Different Words For Love, but the feeling of Rowland’s emotions are crystal clear. Who needs a hundred when the one you use holds such astonishing power?
This is a fictional story about a girl, whose name doesn’t matter and whose appearance also doesn’t matter. What matters is the feeling, the giddy head rush that Rowland gets when he thinks about her, sees her, touches her. Despite obviously wanting to shout about this relationship to the world, Rowland has patience and pause in his delivery – an ingenious joyfulness of revelling in all the little details that are the most important parts of this union. First date feelings, first contact – all of these moments feel permanently imprinted in Rowland’s memories… and in ours as well, such is his prowess at recounting the events in question. It’s beautifully awkward, a little like a rom com between an average Joe and an angelic vision. A Hundred Different Words For Love is saccharine in the best possible way – a pleasing sweetness without the impending toothache or clawing in your throat from having had too much of a good thing.
Rowland, despite his accounts of heart-warming emotion, is not gushingly effusive. Holding back accentuates and adds gravitas to the times he does adeptly describe the three life-changing words he can never quite bring himself to say. The moment when she professes her love only to have it verbally unrequited is painful and sad, a sign that perhaps this just isn’t meant to work. Rowland aptly throws a counter to this theory though – we as society say that we love so many things so readily that the phrase has lost all impact. Surely actions of devotion, delivered in little, bite-sized chunks are more important than being able to spout the overused phrase? Apparently not.
The wedding that he endearingly dons a dress for, a celebration for his best friend, is another kind of love that comes to the fore in the latter part of this production. A Hundred Different Words For Love is a beautiful dichotomy – the act of not being able to, or purposefully refraining from, using words to describe the object of your affections despite your trade being based on carefully crafting such wonderful prose. Rowland humbly puts to us the reason for not speaking of love aloud – it’s such a complicated subject with so many different interpretations. Maybe this is a time when words aren’t needed – the overwhelming emotion flooding from the show is more than enough.
A Hundred Different Words For Love played Summerhall as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 until 27 August 2017. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the website.