Edinburgh Fringe 2016
Solo show based on The Journals of Denton Welch, the artist, published in 1944, and later from 2011 when a copy of the diaries were given to a young writer. Written and performed by Sam Rowe, who has woven the threads of Welch’s life with parallels from his own life.
This solo show is based on The Journals of Denton Welch, the artist, published in 1944, and later from 2011 when a copy of the diaries were given to a young writer. Written and performed by Sam Rowe, who has woven the threads of Welch’s life with parallels from his own life. The writing in the show is well crafted, and the rich language from the daily chronicles of Welch is compelling.
Entering the wonderful Anatomy Lecture Theatre at Summerhall the detailed cozy set is stylish – complete with tables covered with old books, a teapot, a plum, a tomato, an old radio, and a set of black lace curtains. Sam Rowe, the performer has a wonderful speaking voice, which projects very well and he has a vital presence. He is expressive, when speaking as the young writer, as Welch and as several animated characters in both of their lives.
Embracing the diaries as a base for this show is an intriguing idea and Rowe is certainly committed to it. There is some reminiscing about tearooms and cake and that Denton collected Victoriana. He also had a penchant for a young land boy called Eric, and his Journals describe his desire and longing for him. The journals begin soon after 1915 when Denton ran away from school and travelled around China, returning to London to study art in 1934, when his life changed forever. It’s fascinating and even more so when Rowe talks about his life progressing through his years and then working in a gay bar.
Ebullient Francis, a male friend, who sought a relationship or at least an encounter with Rowe, gave Rowe a copy of the diaries. The parallel with the yesteryear of Denton’s life is charming and romantic stuff, and a highlight is Denton’s tension filled moment with Eric, it is poignant and builds emotionally very well.
Colourful and spicy bartender speak during staff breaks at the Wardour Club is also snippy and entertaining. Several times Rowe reads letters describing tantalizing moments when desire is there, but sadly, it’s the wrong time. Rowe is at his best during these nuanced and emotive moments. Rowe is a little stiff at times throughout the piece, but the end shows what Rowe can really do, and a few slow moments could be minimized as the run continues. Transitions suggesting time changes are subtly designated by pauses, light changes (some quite vibrant!) and sound effects such as rain. A lot of care and attention has been paid to every element of this piece and the quality shows.