Play review by Julia Pattison: Wise Children at York Theatre Royal

Wise Children at York Theatre Royal.
Wise Children at York Theatre Royal.

Play: Wise Children

Venue: York Theatre Royal

Dates: Until Sat 16 March 2019

Review: Julia Pattison

“What a joy it is to dance and sing !“ was just one of many memorable lines in Emma Rice’s wonderfully vibrant adaptation of Angela Carter’s 1991 novel Wise Children.

Emma writes in the programme: “I love simple storytelling and encourage an innocence of play from my actors”, and from this, and her admiration for all of Angela Carter’s work, in particular, Wise Children, Emma was inspired to set up her own Company using the same name. This is a match made in heaven and I’m sure Angela Carter would be proud of the way Emma has taken her vivid, empowered and sensuous words and created the most uplifting, imaginative play, full of razzle dazzle and joy.

As we arrived to take our seats in the auditorium the words Wise Children were lit up in starry lights, and cast members in jaunty berets and short shorts were limbering up on a stage that had a circus feel about it, (set and costumes designed by Vicki Mortimer) with a delightfully quaint old caravan taking centre stage; it set the scene for the visual feast to come.

Nora and Dora (wonderfully portrayed by Etta Murfitt and Gareth Snook) were twin chorus girls born and bred on the wrong side of the tracks, and were celebrating their 75th birthday.

On the other side of the town, their father and greatest actor of his generation, Sir Melchior Hazard turned 100 on the same day.

There was a compelling narrative throughout the play where we went back in time, learning about scandalous illegitimacy, but also the balm of the smell of the grease paint, very reminiscent of Dickens’ view of the theatre with an all-singing all dancing take on the wonder of the world even if you haven’t got a bean. Shakespeare quotes were scattered like confetti throughout the play too, adding fizz and fun to the narrative.

Omari Douglas was superb in the show, with legs to die for that were put to excellent use in some sizzling dance routines.

Sam Archer too, playing Young Peregrine lit up the stage with his presence and energetic dancing. We laughed till we cried at the antics and bawdy banter of Grandma Chance (brilliantly played by Katy Owens).

The line “Comedy is tragedy that happens to other people”, got a laugh, but really stuck home about the sadness that tinged the twins’ lives.

One of the best pieces of theatre I’ve seen in a long time; superb!