Review: Jem Rolls One Man Traffic Jam

Brianna McFarlane

          What I know about Jem Rolls is that he’s a bit of a big deal around the Fringe circuit. A renowned performer of spoken word poetry, his promotional flyer touts that he is the “lovechild of Eminem and John Cleese.” This is what sold me on going to see the show. Not by any means am I an expert on spoken word or even poetry in general, this show is an incredible experience and certainly one I won’t forget for many years to come. Though I will admit to feeling the occasional lull in his performance, when Rolls hits his highs he is damn near prophetic and his rhythmic style invokes in me something undefinable.

Rolls sets an incredible pace from the very beginning of the piece and only pauses once momentarily throughout. The central focus of the story rests on the performer’s quest to find good material for his next show in which he plans to dedicate to the Fringe audience. This leads him to observing humanity on the local transit. From there Rolls touches on a number of topics ranging from human traffic jams to Evolution itself and, while sometimes it is difficult to keep up, there are many times when the sentiment of his words ring remarkably true.

The moment I struggled with the most within this piece was the moment when the performer decides to announce Evolution’s “Top 10” contributions to the animal kingdom. This moment was so unlike everything else in the show that I was pulled right out of the performance and everything Rolls had worked to build with his language and intonations. It came across as very cheesy and far too long; perhaps a top five would have been more sufficient, if truly necessary at all. However, despite this moment there are lines in this show that have seemingly engraved themselves in my mind. Lines such as: “you are only as good as your next show”, “I get road rage at the ATM,” and, “do we deserve it if we don’t preserve it?” are short and sweet, but at the same time poignant and critical.

I would recommend this show for anyone looking to see a different style of story-telling on stage, something that uses both semantics and tone to create a message. Jem Rolls One Man Traffic Jam is not for the passive of mind. This show demands your full attention and will leave you exhausted after. Give your mind a work out and check out Jem Rolls’ famed spoken word poetry.