Fringe 2015 Review: "Jem Rolls Up"

"Jem Rolls Up" at the 2015 Orlando Fringe - Photo via Jem Rolls
Photo via Jem Rolls
"Jem Rolls Up" at the 2015 Orlando Fringe
Last Fringe, I raved about quirky U.K. poet Jem Rolls’ first Orlando appearance. This year, he’s back with his sophomore show Jem Rolls Up, again rocking the Brown venue despite another bronchial bug (Florida weather seems to hate Rolls’ lungs). Though obviously under the weather during the opening-night performance I attended, Rolls still succeeded in delivering his witty wordplay with more dynamism than most healthy performers can muster.

Using his trademark techniques of dense rhyme schemes and syncopated meters punctuated by emphatic arm movements, Rolls raps rhythmically on such seemingly random topics as demonic French drivers, the misery of subway travel, ex-Prime Minister John Major, and the rising tide of digital information that threatens to overwhelm our BrainBerries and iBodies. Those who saw Rolls last year will note that a number of this year’s pieces are encores, including his hilarious take on the British history syllabus (TL;DR: “We won, we won, we won.”). Highlights of his new work include an ode to “Ego Tourism” (which will look hilariously familiar to anyone who has visited our theme parks) and “Clangerman,” dedicated to the socially obtuse, whom he likens to “hedge-cutters at the parasols of politeness.”

At the show I saw, Rolls lacked a little of his usual exuberance, sacrificing some pace for volume. And for a show titled “Up,” the bulk of the poems are self-admitted downers; the penultimate piece about “Optimists Anonymous” in particular becomes a long, angry litany of woes. But if Rolls’ closing piece – in which he compares the act of performing to religious communion – doesn’t touch you, there’s no poetry in your soul.

big word performance poetry - Surrey, UK
Venue: Brown
Length: 60 minutes
Rating: 13 and up
Price: $11  

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