THEATRE REVIEW: Wise Children ★★★★

Wise Children
Bristol Old Vic
Wednesday 23rd January - Saturday 16th February 2019

Following her rather successful stint as Artistic Director at Shakespeare's Globe in London, Emma Rice has since gone on to now create an ambition of hers she's longed for; Wise Children, a theatre company helmed at the reins by Rice, and for her first production has chosen to adapt Angela Carter's novel of the same name, something which has always inspired Rice from early stages in her career.

Set in Brixton during the early 20th century, Dora and Nora Chance are both celebrating their 75th birthday, and throughout the production we are treated to the visions of their younger years, presented by a phenomenal group of actor musicians, some who may seem quite familiar to those who have followed Rice's previous work with the remarkable Kneehigh Theatre Company; Patrycja Kujawska, Katy Owen, and Mike Shepherd to name a few, all join Rice on this bold journey to bring Carter's novel and imagination to life on stage. The whole cast truly embody their wacky and outrageous counterparts with such authority and ease, especially to all those who Multi-Role in the production.

Omari Douglas and Mirabelle Gremaud steal every scene their in as Showgirl Nora and Dora respectfully, who especially give energy and captivating moments of pure flexibility and movement which is heightened thanks to Etta Murfitt's choreography. Whilst at Bristol Old Vic, Shepherd's role of Peregrine Hazard is taken over by Paul Rider, who is enchanting and hilarious, with a stunning costume which gives him a striking image courtesy of Vicki Mortimer, who also doubles up to give us a derelict styled, neon glow to the set design, helped equally by Malcolm Rippeth and his ever changing lighting which adds sheer atmosphere to the proceedings. It's clear that this project has seen a real family development with close details but in at every moment, right down to the gorgeous puppetry designed by Lyndie Wright.

With so much to fit into one production, the story at times can get confusing, with switching of roles between actors allowing to show that decades have passed from the stories point of view, as well as defining moments which can get lost within a busy staging environment, but as the angelic harmonies rise to the gods of the theatre from the company's rendition of Cyndi Laupers 'Girls just want to have fun', it's the only moment that we all collectively get to breath and mellow in the story which we have just witnessed.

For Emma Rice's first outing with her company, Wise Children is a clear love letter towards her younger self; this is a show that Rice has clearly made for herself and given over to her friends and family to held sacred, and as an audience it's stunning to see her years worth of experience all manifested within this stunning and unforgettable production.


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