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Fringe Review: I, IDIOT

By Jennifer Cavanagh on June 18, 2018



Photo courtesy of the Ottawa Fringe Festival

by jem rolls
big word performance poetry

60 min / Comedy, Poetry / PG

Performance-poet Jem Rolls is back. Following the sold-out success of his 2016 Ottawa Fringe show The Inventor of All Things, the man whose CV declares he “makes a living solely by shouting” has returned with a brand new—recently premiered at the Montreal Fringe—one-man show about the novel that each of us has deep within and so much more.

This performance, and that novel, are entitled I, Idiot so it’s no surprise that this show is a no-holds barred look at both the individual and society’s collective dumbing down. From the moment Rolls barks his way through the audience to the stage it’s clear that this is a take no prisoners poetry with a punk rock ethos—so forget the tea-room and strap on your thinking cap as Jem Rolls is travelling at light speed.

The rambling performance packs in a lot of information in 60 minutes amid the poetry, jokes and interpretive-dance. Rolls gives himself a mental and physical workout under the hot lights of the LIVE! On Elgin venue. Thank heavens there is only the briefest of nods to post-modernism, however there are a lot of references in this piece including his own big bang theory.

With nothing on the stage and few light cues Rolls fully commands the space with his loud proclamations and exuberant movements moving from self-deprecating humour to wider observations with clever confidence and buffoonery. He is undoubtedly the “clanger man” a shouty, no-filter troubadour as he beautifully puts it taking the “hedge-clippers to the parasols of politeness”.

Brace yourself for the pace and the insults—he’s got a whole segment on these—as this out-spoken UK performer tackles idiocy head on.

I, IDIOT by jem rolls is playing at LIVE! On Elgin (220 Elgin St) until Sunday June 24, 2018. Tickets cost $12. Visit for the schedule and box office info. Read more reviews at