James Rowland: Piece of Work

James Rowland with Attic theatre company

James Rowland: Piece of Work

How does one deal with loss? It’s a perennial question that art has sought to answer, and one that James Rowland contends with here on more than one level. Starting the performance by genially welcoming the audience in and changing into some comfortable pyjamas, it’s clear that Rowland wants everyone at ease, and warning that the piece will discuss both Hamlet and suicide.

It’s a story of fathers and brothers, of love and kindness, and on the nostalgia of being separated and then reunited. But above all, it’s Rowland investigating his own sense of grief and loss, both for those already moved on and that anticipatory terror of the inevitable that others will go someday. In explaining his past and the complexities of his adoptive relationship with his brother Chris and his sibling’s estrangement from his real father, himself a friend of Rowlands, we are entered into a complex emotional web.

It’s an intriguing starting point, particularly as Rowland’s effortless charm and natural skills as a raconteur mean that you’re never sure which way this tale is going to turn in the telling. The comparison with Hamlet as a thematic touch-base is apt, the Bard’s story of lost fathers and troubled sons itself ponders the existential meaning of life and of death at one's own hands.

It’s a sometimes warm, sometimes melancholic journey through the difficulties of life. But as Rowland pieces together old atlas pages and makes self-deprecatory comments about over-consumption of chicken burgers, it’s clear that the clearest maps of ourselves are not put on paper, but rather written in the ripples we mark between our lives and others.

Reviewer: Graeme Strachan

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