Gemma Wilcox: Wallaby Way
Amanda Berg Wilson • August 21, 2016 • Boulder Fringe Festival •
There is an exquisite moment in Gemma Wilcox’s autobiographical The Wallaby Way, her one-woman show recounting her recent journey to a remote island in Tasmania where she spent time on an artist retreat.
She recounts the instance in which she first saw the ocean from the island’s beach. It is a simple, wordless, theatrical moment, but totally and authentically inhabited. It will also come into play in a significant way late in the piece. In it, she pulls that marvelous theatrical hat-trick of conveying a sense of wonder at something none of us can actually see, but all of us can suddenly and collectively imagine. As anyone who has seen Wilcox performs knows, her technical prowess and her ability to be fully and authentically present on stage combine to make it quite literally breathtaking.
This new and–as Wilcox readily admits–raw piece has many like it. Enough, in fact, to make the more pedestrian therapist’s-couch anecdotes in the piece about her ended relationship, sexual discoveries, or writer’s journey, somewhat frustrating.
In addition to vividly evoking the people she encountered on this island, Wilcox also delightfully portrays some of its animals. She also threads (quite literally) the stories of her great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother into her island-provoked reflections. It is these threads, and the simple but brilliant theatrical devices that she employs to weave them in, that I found to be the most compelling. Their meatiness made me want her to “snip” the aforementioned more workaday confessions.
With her pashmina voice and taut physicality, Wilcox is one of those performers I could watch for hours. That, and her exploration of the genuine tragedies of the women in her family, set against the backdrop of the wilds of the island, are more than enough to recommend The Wallaby Way. My hope for this piece as she develops it is that she trusts this enough to edit out the other threads.
You can experience Gemma Wilcox’s Wallaby Way at the Wesley Chapel
Hey Fringe! Amanda Berg Wilson here. I’m a local director and performer and the Artistic Director of The Catamounts, a Boulder-based theater company. I like my theater bold, non-realistic, and smart. I don’t love living room plays about white people and their problems, I loathe the hackneyed and the maudlin, and I’m (unfortunately as a Fringe goer) not a huge fan of the one-person show, especially if it’s just an excuse for an actor to try out all their accents. Just so you know where my sensibility lies as I write about Fringe shows.