Happy Birthday, Jem Rolls.
What a way to start a so-called review, with birthday wishes (so time-sensitive!) to a single solitary individual. Kind of exclusionary, but then again…not that many people read this blog. And if it were YOUR birthday, wouldn’t you want well wishes? Or at least a blogpost raving about your latest Fringe show? Starting to make sense, isn’t it? Now stop being so selfish and let’s carry on.
Jem’s latest Fringe show, in a long and proud line of said shows, is TED HALL: THE TRUE STORY OF THE TEENAGER WHO GAVE THE ATOM BOMB TO RUSSIA. It is essentially the third in a loose trilogy of shows begun with THE INVENTOR OF ALL THINGS and THE WALK IN THE SNOW, neither of which you need to have seen to catch Ted Hall, not at all, but there’s a running thread/theme of obscure Manhattan Project science-minds throughout, which is clearly of endless fascination to Jem Rolls, and with good reason. This is fascinating stuff, which usually gets glossed over in mainstream telling with a few vague mentions of Einstein or Bohr on of the other biggies. Jem takes deep dives into, in previous shows, the many myriad minds who created this most terrible of weapons. But for HALL, we go into one of the youngest members of the Manhattan Project team. And the one who would make perhaps the most momentous decisions of the 20th Century. Should he?
Essentially a spy story, perhaps THE spy story, Jem brings us into the world of Soviet sleeper cells and the dawn of the cold war, using his signature rapid-fire wordplay to paint incredible pictures on an otherwise empty stage, with his lanky frame and flailing limbs his only props. And it is awesome and inspiring to see, as vivid as a photograph at times. An endlessly intriguing look into the world and mind of the man who perhaps saved the free world…or maybe doomed it? Time will tell, and it can’t be argued that this show is now terrifyingly relevant. Should He? Come out and decide for yourself. TED HALL Plays at the Odd Box for the rest of the Ottawa Fringe, tickets available at the Festival website here. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin R (and Baby G)
(PS in case the message got lost…Happy Birthday, Jem Rolls!)