Orlando Fringe Review: Jem Rolls Off the Tongue



Jem Rolls Off The Tongue at 2014 Orlando Fringe
  • Jem Rolls Off The Tongue at 2014 Orlando Fringe

Jem Rolls Off The Tongue at 2014 Orlando Fringe

Performance poet Jem Rolls has been in 93 Fringe Festivals, but Off The Tongue is his first time in Orlando...and it's about time this gangly greying Brit graced our stage with his volcanic presence. He begins with an intriguingly spiritual verse equating the audience with an object of worship, then follows that "industrial-strength sycophancy" with some self-deflating quips and a virtuoso string of captivatingly comical prose-poems. 

There's rarely a regular rhyme scheme in his pieces, which he says "exist in the immediate...the moment, the now," but there are plenty of propulsive rhythms, which he pounds out with wild-eyed intensity and spectacular vocal projection (despite sweating and through his preview coughing like a tuberculosis victim).  Subjects range from the British perspective on world history ("we won, we won, we won, we won"), his ability to read birds' thoughts ("we used to be dinosaurs!"), the world's most unlikely reason to end a love affair ("we broke up because the sex was too good"), and why Machiavelli was really a "softy." 

Rolls has a practiced racauteour's gift for wordplay, building an entire poem out of spoonerisms couplets, and his wide-ranging rants riddled with quirky British-isms sometimes sound like Monty Python's classic "Travel Agent" routine. Untrained ears may have occasional issues with his allusions and accents (he even warns before one poem that it will be "shrill and silly") but you don't have to understand every syllable to enjoy his "world's first backstage poem" about a surreal linguistic insurrection. Towards the end, Rolls asks "I'm glad that's all over, aren't you?" Nope!



Big Word Performance Poetry - Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Length: 60 Venue: Brown Price: $11 (+svc. Charge)

Disc.: None

Rating: 13+ -

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