The Fast Forward Revue

Toronto Fringe Review: Jem Rolls by E. Sempé


Fast Forward Rating: FFFFF (5 out of 5)


How I stopped worrying and learnt to love the mall” by Jem Rolls is both a work of literary brilliance and a theatrical miracle all at once. It is composed and performed with the mastery of a Beethoven symphony, and resonates with a mélange of T.S. Eliot and Alice in Wonderland, which is then transformed and transposed into the twenty-first century. In short: an extraordinary piece from the man hailed as the “Godfather of Scottish Performance Poetry.”

In his piece, Jem Rolls, alone on stage with nothing but a white backdrop and his own body, addresses – or rather, attacks – the absurdity of consumer culture, precisely by embracing the absurd – and even by becoming it. Unlike numerous other pieces with the same message, he pulls off every word of his monologue without seeming trite or contrived. The excesses of our culture are expressed through the excessiveness of his language. Alliterations pile up; P’s and S’s fly through his monotonely musical speech, as he belts out each syllable to his punctuated and sonorous composition. Most impressive is his inexplicable talent of twisting himself into the most complex word-knots, only to perform a Houdini-esque escape before our very eyes by launching into his next tirade without the slightest hesitation. Watching him is like experiencing a brilliant hallucination, one that you never want to finish.

Without a doubt, he is the single most engaging and intriguing performer to grace the Toronto Fringe stage this year: it is absolutely imperative to witness Jem Rolls in action. Quite simply, the man is a poet – and an asphyxiatingly good one at that.


Jem Rolls will be performing at the Glen Morris Theatre, 4 Glen Morris Street (N-E of Harbord & Spadina) as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival, at the following times:

Sun , July 6 @ 3:00 PM
Wed , July 9 @ 12:30 PM
Thu , July 10 @ 2:00 PM
Fri , July 11 @ 10:00 PM
Sat , July 12 @ 5:00 PM



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