Affection. Fondness. Warmth. Intimacy. Tenderness. Attachment. Endearment. Adoration. Passion. These are all words that never make an appearance in A Hundred Different Words for Love. In fact, throughout the play’s hour long run, I failed to count even a single synonym for ‘love’. Instead, what performer James Rowland grants us is a twinkle-eyed telling of an untrue love story about a boy and girl who never quite seem to make the L word work, including such set pieces as a meet cute involving a giant rubber cow suit, a heart-melting same sex wedding, its very own swirling romcom soundtrack and boatloads of quintessentially British awkwardness.
Though Rowland warns us even before the proceedings kick off that ‘none of this is true’, the story he weaves, straight out of the Richard Curtis playbook, carries such genuine heart and intimacy that it takes on an honesty all of its own. Rowland has a warm and easy connection with his audience that builds its own reality, one that proves to be intoxicating. His story follows the couple with the gentle ease of all the best romantic comedies, gliding through all the necessary stages: the disastrous dinner party, the first date, the break up, the big dramatic wedding scene, the possible make-up. I wondered how long it would take before some savvy film exec caught a performance, bought the rights and cast Domhnall Gleeson in the lead role.
But what sets this show apart from its floppy-haired predecessors is that this story, however artificial, somehow alights and becomes true. Rowland jokes at the beginning of the show that as the love story of a cisgendered, heterosexual, middle class white male ‘the reason this show doesn’t have arts council funding is because it doesn’t need it’. It’s interesting to see a story like this, so often mass-produced, pre-packaged and processed to within an inch of its life, find its heart and its home in a dingy back room of Vaults, with forty something people present and the noise of dozens of other stories bleeding in through the cracks in the walls.
Words like affection, fondness, warmth, intimacy, attachment, endearment and adoration may not make an appearance in the text, but somewhere between the rubber cow suit and the melting Viennettas, James Rowland manages to squeeze them in between the lines.
A Hundred Different Words For Love was performed at Vault Festival 2017. Click here for more details.