In the truest sense of the work Rove is a confessional piece of theatre. Charmingly honest, J. Fergus Evans tells us stories of his family’s history using straight narrative, narrative poetry and folk music.
His purpose is twofold; he wants to show the slippery nature of family anecdotes, and does this by reworking the same story multiple times; carefully rephrasing the poetry of a line to alter its significance. But then, despite differences, he also shows that each story works its way to the same ending. That is, all these stories have ended up in Evans’ grasp: his treasure trove of stories may be changeable and contrary but to him they all bear some truth to his own sense of self.
Evans feels himself in a bind, though; as a gay man he can’t see himself ever raising a family, and without someone to whom he can pass on these stories he feels that his wealth of family history will come to an end. And so he has constructed this show, gathered us, the audience, and embarked on his hour of storytelling.
This show is simplistic and personal, and it would be difficult to sit through a performance without letting yourself engage with Evans’ story. With his barefaced emotion and his use of direct address this isn’t a play to be viewed with detachment. And, indeed, you may feel uncomfortable being confronted with real emotion on the stage, but that’s where Evans’ companion, Rhiannon, serves her purpose: not only as a deflection to Evans’ welling eyes but as a violin-playing, straight-talking emotional rock. She’s the buoy to which the audience can cling when emotional levels are rising high.
Evans and Rhiannon seem soulfully complete; joining together they sing old folk tunes between stories, using audience members’ shoes as percussion instruments, and then, happily embracing a moments silence as they look deeper into each others eyes. Their singing seems to reflect the traditional, ritual element of family storytelling, but it also as cutesy and sappy as it sounds.
This piece is bold in its honesty, and certainly prompts you to think about the sources (and validity) of your own family stories. It’s intimate, thoughtful and personal and, if you’re a theatre-goer who likes their performance honest and raw, then this one’s for you.
Rove can be seen at The Albany, Deptford from the 10-22 of March.