“Magical, wonderful and playful!” Just three of the words we heard muttered by many theatregoers as we left the iconic Old Vic theatre after being drawn in by Emma Rice’s adaptation of Wise Children.
And quite frankly, we have to agree with these wonderful words!
There is no doubt in mind that Angela Carter, who wrote the 1991 novel of the same name would have loved to see this exciting adaption by the ‘controversial’ Emma Rice. Any lover of theatre will be amazed by this brilliant, life-enhancing and near enough naughty play.
Even way before the show starts you are tempted to enter into a world that just draws the viewer in; with cast members limbering up in full view you instantly get a sense of openness and intriguing narrative – both spoken and portrayed.
In bright, starry lights the words Wise Children are high above the stage, towering over a gorgeous ancient caravan. It is in this caravan which plays home to Dora and Nora Chance; twins, and illegitimate we should say, to the preposterous Sir Melchior Hazard; an old thespian whom has never acknowledged his daughters.
There is a whole sense of Shakespearean theatre throughout (some may argue outdoing Shakespeare in fact) with characters changing sex, colour and age as the story continues.
The twins are played by the phenomenal Etta Murfitt and Gareth Snook in their dotage. The cast is absolutely overwhelmed with talent with plenty of seductive and awe-inspiring dancing throughout. Another dancer that really shone through for us was the very talented Sam Archer who plays a young Perigrine; the twins’ uncle who as a loony lepidopterist flaunts around in crazy yellow tartan trousers so he can never be missed. Ankur Bahl, Paul Hunter, and Katy Owen also shine through wonderfully with all of their performances blending beautifully together.
“What a joy it is to dance and sing!” is thrown at us throughout the show as a romantic reminder that in fact, it is a wonderful joy indeed. And as I gazed around the stunning theatre there were very few seats able to sit still throughout; with the beautiful music slowing taking over their natural movements. A phenomenal eruption of dancing to Eddy Grant’s Electric Avenue whilst the old twins are buying ‘clobber’ from the Brixton Market just turns the whole audience into wide-eyed dancers in their own minds.
There is a whole interplay between exhilaration and devastation that runs throughout this wonderful stage adaptation that keeps everyone on the edge of their seats with many eager to skip the interval in favour of learning what happens to characters and their stories.
If you were to ask me whether I would recommend Wise Children I would have to say, “Yes, my darling daughter.” The show, from start to finish, is a feel-good, feel-sad mash up. The whole audience very soon gets wrapped up in the beautiful words and the dramatic dancing sending the whole theatre into a whirlwind of emotion that helps to vanish the outside world and reminds us all of how important it is to live a life to the fullest.