Reviewed by Nikki Cotter
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Adapted from Angela Carter’s book of the same name Wise Children tells the captivating story of Nora and Dora Chance, elderly twins and former chorus girls from the wrong side of the tracks; Brixton more specifically. On the day of their 75th birthday they unexpectedly receive an invitation from their absent father Melchoir Hazard who turns 100 that very same day. It’s an opportunity to ‘cross the river’ and may also offer a chance to answer some questions about life, love and the meaning of family.
The scene is set, but if we’re going to answer any questions surely we need to know where it all began? So begins a glorious journey through the life and times of the charismatic twins all told in a series of flashbacks via a vibrant feast of song, dance, colour, music and pure storytelling magic.
Vicki Mortimer’s stunning set and costume design is a visual feast, a quirky vintage caravan, billowing silk kimono’s and bountiful butterflies all vying for attention indicate from the off that this is going to be quite a ride.
Emma Rice’s vision for this production ensures this flamboyant and fabulous piece is so packed full of joyous theatricality it enthralls from the very first moment. The cast work together so beautifully bringing mischief, mayhem, sex and of course scandal to life, this really feels like an uninhibited celebration of theatre. The characterisation is excellent, all wrapped up in a joyful sense of community where ‘family ‘is made up of whomever makes you feel whole. The cast working together exquisitely to demonstrate just how enthralling theatre can be.
Tender moments are woven delicately into the tapestry of this story while the darker elements act as a reminder of the more sinister side of life. Songs are used in support of the story and bring a real and on occasion unexpected joy to proceedings; the use of Eddie Grant’s Electric Avenue is pure genius, while Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want To Have Fun becomes touchingly poetic.
This is a true ensemble piece, no scene would work without each cast member delivering as they do; further adding to the sense of family and rich community. The Nora’s and Dora’s through the years are played to perfection, each as captivating as the next. From puppets through to pigtailed girls, to bobbed showgirls to the aged performers acting as narrators telling their story they play their parts to perfection.
There is gender-swapping, bawdy humour and brilliance throughout as Rice pokes fun at the aging ‘thesp’ in the form of the twins father Melchior and Shakespearean references are cleverly littered. Special mention must go to Katy Owen as Grandma Chance and Paul Hunter as Gorgeous George, the comedic timing of both adding laugh out loud humour to the piece with their double entendres and physical comedy.
Wise Children is an inventive and jubilant romp of a production; there is razzmatazz, thrills and spills in this enormously inventive and visually captivating production. As the first production from Emma’s Rice’s newly formed theatre company also called Wise Children this production rubber stamps the fact that Emma Rice is without doubt one of the most exciting and visionary theatre makers out there, an absolute must-see.
Wise Children is on at Chester’s Storyhouse until Saturday 23rd March tickets available here.
Further information about The Wise Children Club, Emma Rice’s initiative to make theatre training more accessible can be found here.