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Fringe Review: The Inventor of All Things

By Brian Carroll on June 9, 2017

Apt613 is trying to see every show on opening weekend of the 2017 Ottawa Fringe Festival. Read more reviews at

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The Inventor of All Things
by jem rolls

60 min / Storytelling, Comedy, Drama, Solo / PG

The Inventor of All Things (TIOAT) is Ottawa’s favourite jem rolls show. He last performed this show at the Ottawa Fringe in 2015. Unfortunately, some people missed it then because jem rolls sold out the end of his run. Fortunately for those people, he’s brought the show back to Ottawa.

Two reasons for the sellouts: (1) The show appealed to audiences beyond jem rolls’ local fan base. (2) Many audience members saw the show more than once.

What makes TIOAT so popular? jem rolls usually bills himself as a performance poet. His poems often tell stories, but rarely does one poem occupy a full hour. Here, the emphasis is on one full-length story. Yes, there’s poetry: rhythm, metre, repetition. Lewis Carroll said, “That which I tell you three times is true.” jem rolls follows Lewis Carroll’s dictum throughout the show. “What if? What if? What if?” says rolls to emphasize Szilard’s worries.

But more than that, rolls is a performance poet, with the emphasis on performance. He makes use of the full stage, left to right, front to back, to engage his audience. They follow his every move. rolls is no park-and-bark storyteller.

And what a story it is! The now relatively unknown Leo Szilard (1898-1964) had an inventive mind that ranged over nuclear fission (bombs and power plants), cyclotrons, information theory, cancer treatment, men’s haircutting, ladies’ stockings, and cooling systems for nuclear reactors. The last item was in collaboration with Albert Einstein.

Szilard understood the nuclear chain reaction and the potential for nuclear power before anyone else. He also saw the potential for Nazi Germany to develop the atomic bomb. He convinced pacifist Einstein to write to President Roosevelt to recommend that the U.S. build the atomic bomb before Hitler could.

As well as poetry and physical performance, rolls brings one more element to the table: humour. He injects humour to make the nuclear physics of Szilard and his contemporaries funny. Laugh out loud funny. Laugh so hard you-can’t-take-notes funny.

jem rolls held his 80%-full opening night audience in the palm of his hand for exactly 60 minutes. Even a first-time Fringe patron loved this show. TIOAT is headed for more sellouts. Get your tickets early.

The Inventor of All Things by jem rolls is playing at La Nouvelle Scène (333 King Edward Ave) until Saturday June 17, 2017. Tickets cost $12 online and at the door. Visit for the show schedule and box office info.