Seen at the Bristol Old Vic.
Wise Children is an imaginative and sassy production which promises scandal, sex and Shakespearian illusion – and certainly deliver on all levels.
Set in 1980s, this adaptation of Angela Carter’s final book recounts the life story of Dora and Nora Chance – twins in their 70s – as showgirls and performers in music halls of 1930s London. Abandoned by their father, thespian Melchior Hazard, they are raised by their Grandmother (Katy Owen) who delivers a masterful comic performance.
An absorbing sense of narrative is sustained by the almost constant onstage presence of Nora (Etta Murfitt) and Dora (Gareth Snook) as they relate their life stories; casting shadows across the storyline of their lives in Brixton and on the London stage.
The cast take on the challenge of playing each life stage of the twins with admirable ease; in the blink of an eye, characters change sex, colour and age. Omari Douglas, as showgirl Nora delivers a sensuous and sinewy characterisation, while Mirabelle Gremaud’s contortions and circus acrobatics add a witty twist to the Young Nora.
Bawdy humour and gender swapping add to the carnival atmosphere of theatrical life. Vicki Mortimer's set design reveals the mechanics of staging and is a fitting setting for this talented cast.
Wise Children is a colourful, almost surreal production which celebrates the greasepaint and razzle-dazzle of theatre life, without shying away from the Carter’s themes of illegitimacy, incest and sexual abuse.
Not one for children – but certainly an experience.