jem rolls:TEN STARTS AND AN END (big word performance poetry) 2012 Fringe Review

Jem Rolls - Toronto Fringe 2012

When I looked through the Fringe 2012 program I was really pleased to see that Jem Rolls was back was back with a new show, TEN STARTS AND AN END.   I love Jem Rolls.

Rolls is a performance poet. Going to one of his shows is nothing like going to a poetry reading. At least not like any poetry readings I’ve been to. He’s always moving and there’s no reading involved. There is sometimes singing and tonight there was some audience participation – the good kind, in a group – no ‘volunteers from the audience’.

Tonight, as you would expect from the title, there were 10 beginnings and an ending as well as a bonus middle piece.

Rolls’ performance is very dramatic. The show started with him on a dark stage  doing a piece called “In the Beginning”. There were three other pieces that he called blackout pieces and that he performed in the dark.

He’s very funny, not stand-up comedian funny, but funny for a poet. Not all the time of course. The pieces in this show range from a  60 second tongue-twister, the longest tongue-twister in Canadian History, to a self-help poem, a rant about young people, a poem that he says is the nicest thing anyone has ever written about Toronto, and more. Much more.

The rhymes, the rhythms and the repetition in his work is wonderful. So is the way he plays with words. If you enjoy words you should definitely go see the show.

In fairness I have to say that Jem Rolls isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I saw him a couple of years ago and the woman next to me huffed and clicked her tongue and heaved great sighs of boredom through the whole thing. I had to keep nudging her and hissing “Mother”.

Jem is a busy man this year at Fringe. He’s written a play – The First Canadian President of the United States – which is also being presented.


jem rolls: TEN STARTS AND AN END plays at Venue 6 – George Ignatieff Theatre (15 Devonshire Place)
– Showtimes are July 07 10:15 PM, July 10 06:15 PM, July 11 04:30 PM, July 12 10:15 PM, July 13 06:45 PM, July 15 07:45 PM
– All individual Fringe tickets are $10 at the door (cash only). Tickets are also available online at, by phone at 416-966-1062, or in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $9+$2 service charge)
Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows