One Man Riot: like an elephant in heat
One Man Riot is an autobiographical monologue that reveals the roots of Jem Rolls' performance poetry and spoken word activism. Rolls' epiphany came during the 1990 Poll-Tax riot in London, where he was swept up by the crowd and found himself facing a line of riot police wielding clubs and shields. Instead of meeting violence with violence Rolls chose to hold up a mirror, in which each man on the line could see himself reflected.
As Rolls tells it, this was a tremendously empowering experience. As he portrays it, in this one-man tour-de-force, it's a breathless chase through the streets of London, fueled by rage, confusion, solidarity and exhilaration.
As he charges forward with his manically graphic narrative, Rolls takes time to segue into a little genealogy, which surprisingly reveals that he hails from a long line of policemen. An interesting tidbit that figures later in the story.
Rolls is a big man - 6+ ft. With arms and legs akimbo, a plastic and expressive countenance and the super-charged energy of an elephant in heat, he conjures the madness of the moment. Rolls' trademark raucous humor forms the bedrock of what would otherwise be a somber piece, transforms it into a mad romp, and takes the audience along for the ride.
For anyone who gives a damn, and chooses to declaim in the face of oppression.
One Man Riot is on as part of this year's Vancouver Fringe. For more information riot here.