Is it wrong that when I first opened the program to the 2014 Ottawa Fringe Festival and saw that Jem Rolls was setting up in a new venue called the ‘Oddbox’, that seemed like just a perfect bloody spot for him? I meant it with love..!

For those who haven’t seen him before (he hasn’t been back to Ottawa since 2009, I believe), Jem is a performance poet (a title that simply does not convey the gravity of Jem Rolls, but will do for now) who constantly tours his solo spoken word shows across the Fringe circuit year after epic year. I’ve been lucky enough to have caught him a few times now (in 3 cities), and was delighted to hear he would be bringing his latest piece JEM ROLLS: ONE-MAN TRAFFIC JAM to Ottawa.

Jem Rolls braves the traffic jam...for YOU.
Jem Rolls braves the traffic jam…for YOU.

Riffing at breakneck speeds on his life on the circuit, sweating onstage, and the soul-crushing perfection of riding the bus, Jem is every bit as exciting, committed and original as I remember him. From the opening nightmare about a show so bad your audience hurls themselves to their deaths, through Evolution’s greatest hits and how we all (even God) need a good gang of Fringe buddies to get us through the long dark nights from time to time, Jem Rolls is a wonder to behold and one of the most impressive wordsmiths around. How he holds onto his voice in these shows is a mystery to me…if we could get him and Martin Dockery to do a show together, I think the entire Fringe circuit would implode from sheer verbal exhaustion.

Cheers to the Ottawa  return of one of the hardest-working and most original performers around, and I got to see him on his birthday even. Ever entertaining and even inspirational, check him out and see what just one man and his words can accomplish. It’s a lot. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid

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