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Wise Children – A play by Emma Rice

Written by Postgraduate Community
Published date 30 November 2018
Words by Honor Addington, BA Illustration and Visual Media at LCC

The LCC Graduate School had two free tickets donated by Senior Lecturer, Matthew Hawkins, in Photography. The tickets were auctioned on social media and in a physical call from the Graduate School space. The following precis of Emma Rice’s complex theatre production of Wise Children showing at the Old Vic this autumn is written by Honor Addington. Honor is an Illustration and Visual Media student in her final year at London College of Communication. By regularly visiting galleries and the theatre, Honor gains inspiration for her work. With her main focus on colour and balance, she uses print to realise her art works.

On arriving to the Old Vic I knew nothing of ‘Wise Children’ or what it was. I was later to learn it is an adaption of Angela Carter’s last novel, directed by Emma Rice. After plowing my way through school trips and children, I was excited to see the play. This excitement continued after I saw the set. The set design was amazing and creative.

A bohemian caravan was centre stage with light bulbs and bunting hanging from the ceiling, it felt like a circus. Lights lowered and I waited. Nora and Dora Chance stepped out on stage. Their costumes were just as amazing as the set. In matching 1940’s house wife outfits, complete with head scarves. The Wise Children is narrated by Nora and Dora Chance. A set of twins who grew up on ‘the wrong side of the river’. The story line hops around time, from past to the present and back again.

The present Nora and Dora offering commentary on their past younger and wilder selves. Having had a hard start in life, their mother had died in child birth and their father, a flamboyant actor, denying their existence. ‘Grandma Chance’, a boarding house mistress takes the responsibility of raising them (despite her age), and it was their uncle, Peregrine, who takes the fathering role, (although rather sporadically).

The play deals with family, love, forgiveness and show biz. The light-heartedness and comedy is in sharp contrast with heavy themes such as miscarriage, death and abuse. The mood is lightened however with innuendo and slapstick although often a little coarse and crude. The character’s age, gender or race is not coupled with the actors, known as gender blind casting. This is refreshing as it keeps the play fast paced and exciting. This also encourages comedy as actor Gareth Snook delivers Nora’s line ‘As I get older, I look more like a female impersonator’ got the largest laugh of the play.

Overall I enjoyed the play, however the lovely lady I sat next to (who was bit older, maybe 50’s), really didn’t enjoy it. After asking her why, she put it down to her age and saying that it was a young persons’ play, which the idea that it was too crude with smutty overtones. I think this could easily be because of awkward juxtaposition of heavy themes and light comedy, which adds an element of edginess and discomfort. This juxtaposition is what keeps you at the edge of your seat.

Photo Credit: Paul Tanner

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