Latest Review – Wise Children [HOME, Manchester]

Photo by Steve Tanner 


HOME, Manchester 

Until Saturday 2nd March 2019

Anyone familiar with Emma Rice’s previous theatre work will know exactly what to expect from Wise Children, the debut production from the newly established Wise Children theatre company, conceived, created and led by Rice. Anyone yet to experience an Emma Rice production however needs to get themselves along to one of Wise Children‘s current tour dates to witness another thrilling offering from one of UK theatre’s most innovative and visionary practitioners.

Adapted by Rice from the final novel by Angela Carter, Wise Children is a bold and uplifting celebration of theatre, life and the complexities of family, unfolding in a fluid and whimsical non-linear structure, and crafted with director’s signature blend of inventive storytelling and pure theatricality.

The tale opens on 23 April 1989 (Shakespeare’s anniversary), with identical twin sisters and former show girls, Dora and Nora Chance (Etta Murfitt and Gareth Snook) – estranged daughters of the once celebrated Shakespearean, Melchior Hazard – celebrating their milestone 75th birthdays. When they receive an invitation to their father’s (and his twin brother Peregrine’s) 100 birthday party, which coincidentally happens to be that very same day, they then whisk the audience back through the decades for an eye-opening, whistle-stop tour through their younger years, reminiscing about how they came to be, their biological father that has never acknowledged them as his own, their careers in the theatre, their past romances, and the doting adoptive parent (‘grandmother’ – a brilliant Katy Owen) that raised the twins as her own.

The twins’ tale is an often bawdy one filled with mischief, wild humour and scandal, yet within those wilder and seedier aspects there are contrasting moments of real sadness and melancholy, and Rice does an excellent job in juggling the various themes and emotions evoked, allowing each to shine through when required.

Ultimately though, Wise Children is a powerful love letter to the healing power of theatre, incorporating a variety of traditional theatrical practices including live music, performance, dance, puppetry, physical theatre, vaudeville, and cabaret.

Rice employs a very diverse and multi-talented company, and makes excellent use of colour-blind and gender-blind casting, with three different pairs of actors playing the twins at the various stages of their lives, and other performers swapping and changing roles at various points.

Like Rice’s Kneehigh work, it is the simplicity and imagination of the staging and designs that prove so effective here. It is storytelling with real heart and great innovation, free from the special effects and modern technologies many contemporary productions rely on.

Angela Carter wrote the novel after she had been diagnosed with lung cancer and it proved a very moving work inspired by her life-long love of Shakespeare, magic realism and the surreal. Having previously staged Carter’s Nights at the Circus so successfully for Kneehigh back in 2006 there is perhaps no one better suited than Rice to bring the theatrically-driven Wise Children to the stage, and the result is a magical and hugely rewarding affair that the author would surely be delighted with.

Running Time: 2 hours and 30-minutes (approx.), including one 20-minute interval.

Final Performance at HOME, Manchester: Saturday 2nd March 2019

For more information, and to book tickets, please Click Here.

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