Vancouver Fringe Festival 2016 Preview – GET LOST Jem Rolls
August 21, 2016
“Travel first. Ask Questions later.” Words at the core of fringe legend Jem Rolls’ new spoken word tale of intercontinental comic blunders. The year, Jem’s will enlighten us in how to Get Lost. But if you thought this eccentric wordsmith was going to answer these questions normally, think again. Showbill.ca’s Matt McLaren gets lost with Jem.
Matt McLaren: Your press release mentions that the work this year will highlight “getting lost on an intercontinental scale.” Was this past year a process of getting lost?
Jem Rolls: Was stuck in England for most of the winter. Yet I did manage to get lost more than usual. Even though I was writing about getting lost and should theoretically have been much more aware of it. I even managed to get lost on a canal. The Canal du Midi outside Carcassonne, and canals are one-dimensional and very difficult to get lost on. And I even got lost within two miles of where I grew up, which I haven’t done since I was 7.
Getting lost involves a certain kind of stupidity and blinkeredness and I just haven’t lost the knack. Had trips to Bulgaria, Plovdiv and Veloko Tarnovo. To the very south of the French Med by the Spanish border. And, best of all, to Portugal and Sintra and the Colares Valley. Praia De Ursa. Boulders so big their very presence is violent.
MM: So will this year be back to basics with you?
JR: No. The show is crazy and i’ve given myself an absurd number of hoops to jump through. Firstly, I have randomized 70% of the show, and am pulling it from a hat at random after an audience member has shuffled my cue cards. So, I don’t know what’s coming next. And if that isn’t tough enough, I’ve asked my technicians to attack the show by springing up lighting cues at random anywhere on the stage.
So I’ve no idea where I have to be next. Its loads of fun, and kind of dizzying, and neatly fits the notion of getting lost.
MM: I’ve seen few performers so crazed with wanderlust. I regret that I didn’t ask you more about this in last year’s interview, but was there any rhyme or reason to how you started to put one foot in front of the other?
JR: The world is very big and aren’t you curious? I am and I can’t stop throwing myself into the unknown. I am a compulsive convulsive so the show is the professional obsessional confessional of a compulsive convulsive.
The Fringe Tour allows me to work all summer and go anywhere all winter. Preferably hot and cheap. It took me a few year’s of touring to shed all other commitments and go somewhere alien for a whole winter, six months in India, twice.
MM: What were the most provocative moments during your creation process for this piece? Biggest successes and traps of frustration?
JR: Four days before opening I realized the show had to be randomized. I was having trouble with a linear order, and I’d put a bit of random in, but I couldn’t see I was trying to solve an unsolvable problem. Then one morning I went for a long walk round the mountain in Montreal thinking about increasing the randomness. And by the time I came back I realized the piece had to be an impressionism.
Should build up the ideas round getting lost. Rather than be linear and head towards a fixed conclusion. The curious thing is that, even though most of the show is in a random order, it really doesn’t change the show. The other big frustration was that I wrote 15,000 words and had to throw out 7,000 words and jokes that I really liked. The endless nitpicker pedantry editing is always the worst bit.
MM: I’m curious what you think separates a good joke from a bad one, other than no one laughing. Your promotional material threatens that we’ll be seeing a good dose of both.
JR: Worst joke on Fringe tour: Mango, good, man come back bad. Who’s to say the good jokes are good? You never know until you get in front of an audience.
MM: If you could do it again, would you still be the man who’s been to more Fringes than anyone else?
JR: Yeah. It’s been such a laugh. Though I wish I’d tried Australia a while back. Yet I have had the chance to be constantly creative, and get to do what i’ve done without paying any care or obeisance or arselicking or patience to any gatekeeps or curators or establishments.
It’s a very free way of creating and then performing the creation. It’s tough and it can be very tough, if not cruel, but it rewards effort and nouse and originality. What else am I gonna do? I’m a lucky bleeder, I found something i’m good at.
MM: Why should audiences come and see Get Lost Jem Rolls?
JR: I dunno, it’s my funniest show yet? And no one’s ever seen anything like it? And it’s kind of a new take on how to experience and enjoy the world. A road to heightened and extra fun. And it’s a laugh.