Victoria Fringe Festival 2017 – The Inventor of All Things
Review by Robbie Huebner – Showbill.ca Staff Writer
September 1, 2017
Jem Rolls is inexhaustible. This much is clear the moment he takes the stage after a strange, overlong musical overture; almost as if he’s ushering out a houseguest who’s stayed past their welcome. Jem Rolls vibrates onto the stage and lists all the inventions Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard concocted during his life, some practical, some eccentric and one very deadly: the atomic bomb. And so starts The Inventor of All Things, a one-man show about an arrogant pacifist, Leo Szilard, who ushered in the nuclear age and his subsequent erasure from popular history.
The undeniable passion coursing through The Inventor of All Things makes the vast, dense world of Leo Szilard easy to digest. Jem Rolls wisely introduces the structure of the show early: five chronological segments of Leo’s life, interspersed with non-linear anecdotes, quotes, or trivia that colour the rest of the story. Through smart, simple lighting cues and slight, but effective, physical action, The Inventor of All Things fascinates. In less capable hands it is easy to imagine the piece descending into a rather boring history lesson. But Rolls’ clever use of repetition, humour, wit and sly teacher-esque pauses (waiting for answers no one really has), elevate a tale about a man into full-on mythology.
If there is one issue with The Inventor of All Things it may be the time it takes to acclimatize to Rolls’ specific cadence. Sometimes an important piece of information seems deemphasized at the back of a sentence, or hidden behind an unstressed word. It’s minor and becomes less noticeable the more time you spend with Jem Rolls, but it can make the first bit of The Inventor of All Things a bit harder to bite into.
The Inventor of All Things is bolstered by a passionate, funny, human performance by Jem Rolls. Spend an hour at Kirk Hall and unearth some strange, brilliant history, relayed by one of the preeminent storytellers of the Fringe circuit.
Big Word Performance
Created by Jem Rolls
Victoria Fringe Festival
Venue 8 (St. Andrew’s Kirk Hall)
- Sept 1 @ 5:30pm
- Sept 2 @ 8:45pm
- Sept 3 @ 5:45pm