Gemma’s return to Woking stage for ‘home town’ performance

A DANCER, singer and actor who honed her skills at a Horsell-based group has come back to Woking to perform in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Gemma Buckingham, who has appeared at the London Palladium and toured Europe and the Far East, is in a UK and world tour of the musical.

Dancer Gemma Buckingham will be returning to her native Woking as Levi’s wife in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat

It has been performing all week at the New Victoria Theatre – where she once served interval drinks and ice cream.

Gemma started dancing when she was two, so her two elder sisters could look after her on Saturday mornings and give their parents a break.

“I have dyslexia so really struggled at school and I think my mum and dad knew that academics was not the route I was going to go down.

“They were really supportive and kept me dancing as much as I could.”

Gemma later went to Karen Clarke Theatre School in Horsell, which later became Summerscales Performing Arts.

“I joined with a friend and went along for the day and thought ‘I’m really quite good at this’.”

LOOKING THE PART-Gemma backstage in one of her costumes for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

“I was there nearly every night of the week. It’s just an amazing school. When I told them that I’m dyslexic and really don’t enjoy school they said ‘we think you’ve got something really special and  now that we know you want to do this possibly as a career, we’ll help you as much as we can’,” Gemma said.

After studying at Laine Theatre Arts in Epsom, she began to get professional work, dancing and singing in shows, leading to her successfully auditioning for Cats!, touring the Far East and Europe.

Cats! inspired me when I was younger and I used to have it as my screensaver on my phone for years,” she said.

Gemma was a “swing”, which means she was part of a group who are essentially multiple understudies, learning the roles of several characters and many songs, which they have to be ready to perform at a moment’s notice.

“The first time I went on stage for Cats!, it was for a boy’s track that I’d never learnt. They had run out of boy swings and said ‘Gemma we need you to learn this track today and go on at half seven.’ I went in early and learnt the track in three hours. It was really fun,” she said.

In 2020, Gemma was accepted as a swing for Joseph at the London Palladium.

The performances had to be cancelled because of the pandemic but were rescheduled for last year and ran from July to September.

Gemma was then given the role of Levi’s wife in the female ensemble of a touring production of the musical and is thoroughly enjoying the experience.

“We’re pretty much on stage the whole show. I love it. The company’s lovely and it is just so much fun. It’s impossible to not sing along to the songs.”

In one scene, Gemma has a 19-second costume and wig change before coming back on leading a pantomime-style camel.

This production includes children playing adults and one of them is an Ishmaelite sitting on the camel.

“The children have all got beards on. It’s a bit of slapstick comedy and very funny. The camel spits at Joseph on stage. That’s my favourite bit.”

The UK tour finishes in October and then goes to Toronto, Canada, from December to February.

Before that, Gemma has to find time to prepare for her wedding to her fiancé, Matt. She plans to audition in September for shows that will start after she returns from Canada and try to fit in a honeymoon in between.

“That is the disadvantage with our industry, in that you can’t plan your life ahead.”

Gemma is particularly enjoying performing in Woking in Joseph, which runs until today (Saturday 6 August).

“I did competitions and festivals at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, and it’s really special to me.

“I worked as front of house at the New Victoria for five years on and off in between auditions and I can’t wait to go back.”

“There are still people that I know working there. It’s really special going back and performing there.”

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