For our March Cog Night, we pressed play on James Rowland’s greatest ‘hut’, Team Viking streamed as part of the Shedinburgh 2020 replay collection.
Team Viking at Shedinburgh
Shedinburgh was a bit of whimsy that suddenly became real.
When it was clear that the 2020 Fringe would be cancelled friends Francesca Moody, Harriet Bolwell and Gary McNair did what friends do. They drank and talked nonsense. Except these friends are producers and writers, and they brought their nonsense, their hilarious punning name, to life.
Shedinburgh became an online festival of the best of the Fringe stalwarts of theatre, music and comedy, all performed live from two sheds at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh and Soho Theatre in London (plus some artists performing and streamed from their own sheds).
It was a lovely positive response to the pandemic, it raised money and spirits.
For a month in early 2021, the Shedinburgh site sprang back into action, bringing the greatest hits from the 2020 back-catalogue. From the comfort of your sofa you could experience the most intimate solo performances from performers such as Sophie Duker, Tim Crouch, (Cog favourite) Inua Ellams and of course, James Rowland.
For our March Cog Night we knew we wanted to peak inside the shed. But what to choose? The selection was almost too much.
In a mildly awkwardly, politely democratic way, we narrowed the choice and voted via Slack. I was delighted that Team Viking won the day (I suspect as much because of the absurdist publicity image as for any other reason).
I have such a soft spot for this show.
If you were to describe the perfect Edinburgh Fringe show, you’d be hard pushed to tell a tale more perfect than this.
A slightly shambolic hour featuring three funerals, alcohol fuelled depression, Parkinson’s diseases, a body snatch and an act of arson – what’s not to like?
I first saw James Rowland’s Team Viking at the Edinburgh Fringe. He was performing, mid-day, in a sweaty basement room (next to the gent’s toilet with a noisy hand-drier) at the Grassmarket Community Project. It was the ideal Fringe experience; an hour of perfectly crafted escapism.
Team Viking is the first part of a loose trilogy of stories about friendship and the loss of innocence. Well, maybe not loss, because James maintains a childish charm and sense of naive wonder in all of his shows.
It’s an almost perfect piece of storytelling. In the hands of a different performer it might be too perfect, too slick, too contrived.
But James Rowlands brings such a disabling charm that he is utterly believable, even as the allusions, call-backs and metaphors pile on and tale spins into increasing absurdity.
I really don’t want to spoil the plot. I really want you to see this show. It’s on film now so I’m sure you’ll get another chance one day.
But if you don’t you could do much worse than buying the audio download (of this and the other two parts of the trilogy) from his Bandcamp page.
Illustration by Dave Bain for our Cultural Calendar.