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Review Roundup: See What Critics Had to Say About WISE CHILDREN

Review Roundup: See What Critics Had to Say About WISE CHILDREN

'Let's have all the skeletons out of the closet, today, of all days!'

It's 23 April, Shakespeare's birthday.

In Brixton, Nora and Dora Chance - twin chorus girls born and bred south of the river - are celebrating their 70th birthday. Over the river in Chelsea, their father and greatest actor of his generation Melchior Hazard turns 100 on the same day. As does his twin brother Peregrine. If, in fact, he's still alive. And if, in truth, Melchior is their real father after all...

A big, bawdy tangle of theatrical joy and heartbreak, Wise Children is a celebration of show business, family, forgiveness and hope. Expect show girls and Shakespeare, sex and scandal, music, mischief and mistaken identity - and butterflies by the thousand.

Emma Rice (Romantics Anonymous, Tristan & Yseult, The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk and Brief Encounter) brings her unique, exuberantly impish vision to Angela Carter's great last novel, Wise Children, launching her new theatre company of the same name and its London residency at The Old Vic.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Dominic Maxwell, The Times: The tone is childlike but troubling. It's too sexual or grisly for children. This is a celebration of illegitimacy - theatrical and familial - that foregrounds strong, sexual women. It rushes through its suggestion of sexual abuse rather, and there are points where this mighty saga can feel episodic. Yet Rice seems to sense when things are sagging. Everything's gone a bit quiet? Hey, let's get the cast to dance to Eddy Grant's Brixton-themed Eighties hit Electric Avenue. And make it mean something. It's that kind of night. Glorious.

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph: Emma Rice's first venture since leaving the helm of Shakespeare's Globe, a time so full of back-stage drama it warrants a theatrical treatment in its own right, is like a joyously vengeful-gleeful tap-routine.

Kate Kellaway, The Guardian: At the end of a programme essay, Emma Rice wonders what Angela Carter would have made of her production of Wise Children, Carter's 1991 novel about a theatrical dynasty of seediness, sparkle and scandalous illegitimacy. Sadly we will never know, but I cannot imagine anyone who loves theatre not being bowled over by this life-enhancing, brilliantly uninhibited, all-singing and dancing (and let's not forget the incontinent talking) adaptation.

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard: Not everything works. Sometimes the theatrical in-jokes come too thick and fast, and the final scenes drag - notably during an awkward visit to Brixton's Electric Avenue. But Emma Rice does justice to the verve and racy humour of Carter's writing, and the result is a pleasing oddity, tinged with melancholy yet joyous and inventive.

Natasha Tripney, The Stage: Rice's adaptation does not shy away from the plot's more subversive elements. It's chock-full of bonking and incest - though it actually contains less bonking and incest than the novel - and there are also a couple of rather on-the-nose jokes about old-fashioned actor-managers who are forever taking liberties with the talent. The whole thing comes across as one huge love letter to theatre, albeit one that encompasses its seedier aspects as well a its power to transform and enchant.

Paul T. Davies, The stakes and expectations are high for this, the launch of Emma Rice's new company, Wise Children, an adaptation of Angela Carter's final novel, the company named after it, the first new production from Rice after her appalling treatment by The Globe Theatre board. Carter and Rice are a perfect fit, the novelist unbound by convention and politeness, writing her kind of novel, Rice fearless and experimental in her company approach. Freed from Globe constraints, Rice is stronger in her vision and determination to create her own kind of work. Wise Children, like Carter's novel, is messy in places and drags a little in the first half, but has exquisite theatricality and invention. It's a love letter to theatre for people who love theatre.

Photo Credit: Steve Tanner

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