There are some familiar faces returning to the VAULT Festival this year, and The Reviews Hub’s Richard Maguire was able to catch up with James Rowland as he adds the finishing touches to his new play Space Opera.
Pleased to be back?
“Oh yes,” affirms James, “it’s handy as I live in London!”; but joking aside he also sees his return to the VAULT Festival as a privilege, especially as it was the first festival where he performed a solo show. He thinks that this year the theatre and comedy programming is incredibly strong, and so he is in good company. He believes that one of the things that separates the VAULT Festival from other festivals is the mixture of shows that have done well elsewhere, say, Edinburgh, and brand new shows that have been selected by the VAULT team. He’s looking forward to his return.
For some reviewers at The Reviews Hub, James’s Revelations – a moving tale of birth and death, inspired by James’s own story – was the stand-out show at last year’s VAULT Festival. The third segment of a trilogy, James plans to tour Revelations sometimes on its own, and sometimes with the other two shows, Team Viking and 100 Different Words for Love, both of which are also partially autobiographical.
His next show Space Opera, opening this week at the VAULT Festival, is very different and James chose not to work with his friend Dan Goldman who had been his collaborator on the trilogy. “It’s very important to refresh your working practices and to be brave, and not to have a safety net”, James says, admitting that he is nervous as opening night approaches.
The description of Space Opera on the VAULT’s website doesn’t give much away, because, as James confirms, “I’m still tweaking it and it doesn’t exist as a final entity yet”. But “essentially Space Opera is about trying to find hope in a world that doesn’t feel very safe or happy for a lot of people. At the moment the world is a bin on fire!”.
As James wouldn’t give too much away about Space Opera (no spoilers here) we asked instead what shows he was most looking forward to seeing in the festival. “How many can I have?”, he asked, “I’ve got a list!”. His first choice is Holly Morgan is a Witch, Get Her!, which, he promises, will be great fun. The provocatively entitled Smoke Weed Eat Pussy Everyday is James’ second choice and has been created by Chloë Florence, who won a New Writers Award at the VAULT last year.
James’ next recommendation is Nathan Lucky-Wood’s Alcatraz, which first saw light at Miniaturists, a regular night at the Arcola where short new work is test run. James’ final choice – though he wanted to offer more – is I Will Still Be Whole (When You Rip Me In Half), poetic monologues on the violence of whiteness performed by Ava Wong Davies.
It’s an eclectic selection by James, and we look forward to catching them, if we can. But with so many shows to choose from, ranging from theatre to stand-up comedy, any night at the VAULT Festival is guaranteed to be like no other.
Space Opera runs from 6 February to 10 February | The Vault Festival continues to 17 March 2019
Richard Maguire | Image: vaultfestival.com