Friday, July 5, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Jem Rolls Attacks the Silence (Fringe)

Relevant as Ever
A Fringe veteran commands the stage
by Zoe Erwin-Longstaff

A seasoned Fringer, Jem Rolls’s new vehicle, Jem Rolls ATTACKS THE SILENCE, delivers the dexterous versification veteran patrons relish. Over the years his one-man shows are examples of personal effervescence on display. But forget his buoyant theatricality; this show would be engaging for an audience blindfolded.   Jem Rolls knows the pleasures of sound.  Those delectable “o” vowels, richly elongated, resonate and tease our ear. With brio, he rattles off alliterative lists, creating canny rhymes and rhythms that hit the spot each time. Though occasionally sputtering and raspy, his vocal prowess includes exactitude of diction assuring we don’t miss a word – even as he careens us forward at breakneck speeds.

Having seen Jem Rolls myself, a few Fringes past, I suspected I was in for a treat.  One of his old routines “We won” – a tirade of British triumphalism – left a durable impression I grinningly recount as my favourite Fringe moment.  Before curtain, I worried that perhaps he would borrow too much from antecedent performances; that his shtick might have grown stale over the years.  Not so. Rolls is as relevant as ever, bringing his representative performativity to fresh material. 

Sprightly, yet grizzled, Rolls commands the stage, transforming from stodgy old Brits to petulant Canucks.  In one hour he tussles with writers block, falls in love, and recounts life growing up in a “shit hole”, the upper crust English Military town in which he was raised. Even when handling the tenderest or discomfiting anecdote Rolls returns to his signature silliness.  Shrewd political commentary is all the more arresting, served up as doggerel. “Don’t worry about insulting the Canadians, they’ll just be flattered that you noticed them at all” he recounts a friend once saying to him, and we are, glad he’s noticed us, and delighted to hear him poke fun year after year. 

Jem Rolls Attacks the Silence is at The Toronto Fringe it will also appear at the Winnipeg Fringe
Read some of the works by Rolls which appear in the piece

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. Please read our guidelines for posting comments.