Gemma Wilcox on playing 21 characters in Fringe Fest's Magical Mystery Detour
During her career as a performer, Gemma Wilcox has played dozens of intelligently crafted characters. The U.K.-born, University of Leeds trained actress is a one-woman cabaret of personas, and today she spends most of the year taking her shows on the road across the country and through Canada. She tries to make it back to Colorado for the Boulder International Fringe Festival, though; she's presented a piece in almost every fest since the event's inception in 2005.
For this year's Fringe fest, with the help of director and collaborator Elizabeth Baron, Wilcox will bring 21 characters to life in the Magical Mystery Detour, the story of a car trip-turned-personal journey, with the first of multiple shows set for 6 p.m. this Saturday, August 18, at the Carson Theater in the Dairy Center for the Arts. In advance of that run, the now-Boulder resident spoke with Westword about the appeal of performing a one-woman show, and what it means to carry more than sixty characters around in her psyche.
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Westword: Without giving too much away, can you talk a little about the Magical Mystery Detour storyline?
Gemma Wilcox: It's about a woman called Sandra -- she's a character that I've been working with for about ten years. Sandra's mother has passed recently, and she gets a letter from her mother's lawyer saying that her mother wanted her to go on a journey to Land's End in Cornwall, which is the southwesterly point of England. She wanted her to go see the Transit of Venus. It was a trip they had planned before her mother died -- but her mother wanted her to do this regardless.
So Sandra does this trip from London down to Cornwall with her dog, Solar, and basically discovers all sorts of magical, mysterious and sometimes even mundane characters along the way. She experiences a lot of detours and blocks in getting there. So on one level, it's a story of a car journey and the things that happen, the rerouting that has to happen and other things she doesn't expect. It's not the smoothest of journeys.
Then, on a metaphorical level -- at least I hope it gets communicated, we'll see (laughs) -- it's also kind of exploring the detours that come up in our lives. We sometimes think we're supposed to take a certain path or road or course of things or we expect things to look a certain way, and then something else happens.
I've very much been drawing on that metaphor and theme in my life in the last couple of years, and what happens when you have a certain expectation or what the picture should be. Then life throws you something completely different. How to deal with that can be very painful if you're very attached to what you thought was supposed to happen.