Adapted from Angela Carter’s novel, Wise Children is a celebration of show business told in the most exuberant and joyous way. In the programme notes, Emma Rice writes: “It is a love letter to theatre and one I recognise with a deep personal knowledge.” After feeling like I was in a bit of a theatre rut, Emma Rice’s glorious production reminded me of the magic and beauty of theatre.
The comic tale tells the story of two theatrical families, the Hazards and the Chances. We meet Nora and Dora chance on their 75th birthday who are hesitant to attend their father’s birthday party after their tangled relationship. We are then taken through their life story in the most wonderfully over the top way. With everything from puppetry, to show girls and Shakespeare, it’s a completely bonkers yet utterly beautiful piece of theatre that delves into the universal themes of family, forgiveness and hope.
I remember reading the book whilst at college and Emma Rice’s adaptation of the novel for the stage is simply spectacular. It celebrates theatre and storytelling in a completely imaginative way. This playful production isn’t afraid to be experimental, which should be what theatre is all about.
We see Nora and Dora as young puppet babies go through neglection before they’re taken in by the charismatic Grandma Chance. We then see them fall in love with theatre and grow up in the industry. As they go through the entanglement of life, we watch the sisters bond and become closer and closer and it’s captivating to watch.
The talent of the cast is breath-taking as they take on numerous roles and even gender swap the roles to bring these expressive characters to life. Gareth Snook is exceptional as Dora Chance, who is the constant narrator in the show. His performance is warm and loving and he connects to the audience with real charm. Narrating alongside him as sister Nora Chance is Emma Rice and what a privilege to see her step into the role. Katy Owen brings remarkable amounts of energy and expression to the animated role of Grandma Chance, amongst others. Plus the talent of Omari Douglas and Melissa James as Nora and Dora in their showgirl phase of life are sensational. Particularly Omari Douglas who is unrecognisable in the role as he brings feminine magnetism and elegance to Nora.
Wise Children isn’t just an exquisitely crafted piece of theatre, but it’s everything theatre should be and more. The flamboyant theatricality of it combined with the touching themes means it resonates with all. Wise Children holds a mirror up to real life and reflects it in the most heart-achingly beautiful way.
Wise Children is currently on a UK Tour and is on at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry until Saturday 6th of April, tickets and information can be found on their website.