The spark for James Rowland’s new storytelling show was the invitation from his dear friends Sarah and Emma to be their sperm donor. Revelations follows the trajectory of that rich, strange and at times white-knuckle journey with much light and shade.
Revelations, Summerhall (Venue 26) ****
But, like many a corking yarn, there are a number of intriguing little diversions and thematic tributaries to be explored. The initial request sends Rowland barrelling back to his childhood and adolescence with Sarah and the other point in their mischievous triangle, the enigmatic Tom, who were all brought up in a charismatic Christian church. Rowland is generous and insightful on the resonances that faith still has in his life – especially useful in that his friends put great faith in his ability to help start their family.
There are opinionated sidebars on cars as lethal weapons, the religious practice of speaking in tongues, and flatpack furniture. There are also diversions on the joys of communal singing or the appeal of a snowy day in London and encounters with urban foxes. Occasionally Rowland steps off to the side to a tiny keyboard in order to loop his voice or create an effect, but he never strays too far from the main narrative – the various attempts at insemination, the complicated feelings for the non-pregnant mum and the epic drama of the birth.
Rowland is a consummate storyteller, able to manipulate emotions, make smart little juxtapositions and plant seeds (in more ways than one) only for them to blossom later. He can also leave his rapt audience hanging with a couple of edge-of-the-seat moments, while always appearing just as himself – at one point, literally naked and exposed.
• Until 26 August, 5:40pm