… and the world is
never the same again

Latest Jem Rolls performance poetry “The Walk In The Snow” stands out

By Byron Toben

For many Canadians, the phrase “a walk in the snow” conjures up the famous decision by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to step down early after contemplating the action while on a morning walk during an Ottawa snowfall in February 1984.

Now comes frequent Fringe performer Jem Rolls on his 2019 Canadian tour to dramatically inform us about an even more significant walk in the snow some 46 years before Trudeau’s. His recitation of The Walk In The Snow takes place on Christmas Eve, 1938, when two Jewish refugees from the Nazis walk out in the Swedish snow “and the world is never the same again”.

Jem Rolls -

Jem Rolls – Image: courtesy of Jem Rolls

This important piece is the true story of Lise Meitner, physicist, pioneer, fugitive and her revelation that led to the splitting of the atom.

The public is very aware that in 1910, Albert Einstein, then only 26, announced the most famous formula in history, E=mc², which established the basis for converting mass into energy. However, practical attempts to actually release that energy proved ineffective until Meitner, during the walk with her nephew, physicist Otto-Robert Frisch, surmised that proper bombardment of the large Uranium nucleus with neutrons would release that energy. Frisch dubbed the process “fission”.

This important piece is the true story of Lise Meitner, physicist, pioneer, fugitive and her revelation that led to the splitting of the atom.

Ms Meitner, born into a middle class Jewish family in Vienna, was a shy and studious woman with a propensity for math. She managed to become the first female permitted to study physics in Austria and eventually to collaborate with chemist Otto Hahn in Berlin.

Otto Hawn and Lise Meitner -

Lise Meitner and Otto Hawn – Image: Public Domain

Jem Rolls manages to flesh out her history and accomplishments and her interactions with other key figures along the way, such as Danish physicist Niels Bohr (hero of prize winning play, Copenhagen).

Both Bohr and Hahn later won Nobel prizes, which acclamation was denied to Meitner during her life. However, in 1982, the synthetic element Meitnerium (Mt) was named after her. (Thirteen men have had this honour, but she is still the only woman to ever have such a designation).

This important show makes a fine companion piece to Rolls’s earlier show The Inventor of All Things about the Hungarian-born nuclear physicist Leo Sziliard, which he performed to great acclaim at the 2015 Montreal Fringe.

Rolls, who claims the title of “more Fringe festivals than anyone else on Earth”, did not attend the Montreal Fringe this year, but managed to sneak in a post Fringe one-nighter at the Mainline on July 4.

My spies (who are everywhere) inform me that Rolls may be working on the story of a third nuclear key figure. Definitely on my “heads up” list for next year.

The Walk In The Snow has completed the Montreal, Ottawa and London leg of its 2019 Canadian tour. It will continue on to Regina, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Feature image: PixabayBouton S'inscrire à l'infolettre –

Read more articles from Byron Toben

Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.

Last Minute Deals

There are no comments

Add yours