Hello! I’m James Rowland, and I’m going to tell you a story. I’m a performer and writer and on the 14th of September I will be performing my first show, Team Viking, at the Old Fire Station. I was lucky enough to perform another show of mine A Hundred Different Words for Love there in June. I am also co-writing the Christmas show for the venue (Working Christmas, a funny festive show for grown-ups) which I’m enormously excited about.
Team Viking is the story of myself and my two childhood friends. It is the story of how when we were twenty-five one of them – Tom – died of heart cancer. His last wish was to be given a Viking burial so my other friend Sarah and I gave him one. It is a very funny story despite its sad subject matter.
I thought I’d write a little about my perspective on stories. I’m aware that describing my job as “storytelling” can appear self-consciously ingenuous, because in some ways it is. However, that is also the most accurate description of the work that I make as the shows are very simple.
I am an immensely privileged person, not simply because of the accidents of birth but also everything that has come after that has put me in contact with kind people and a healthy balance of happy times. How with this experience of life and understanding of my luck am I able to justify the job I have chosen? Writing and performing to rooms full (OK, occasionally full) of people who applaud me, rather than humanitarian work or social care in a world that desperately needs it.
I believe that stories are important for us, not just to (as the Ancient Greeks had it) exorcise our pity and terror in catharsis but in order to engage our imaginations. If you can lend yourself to imaginatively interact with a story (be it theatre, music, film, or painting) you are exercising your empathy and if you are actively empathising regularly it’s very hard not to try and join in on the great game of trying to make all of this (*James gestures at everything*) better for everyone.
That’s my excuse anyway, perhaps you’d like to come and watch the show and see if you think it’s worth it.
Team Viking is at the Old Fire Station, Oxford on Thursday 14 September. Tickets are £12/£10. Click here or ring 01865 263990.