Review: Wise Children, York Theatre Royal

First a few adjectives.Wise Children is gloriously tawdry, unapologetically sexy, and beautifully poignant.

Wise Children at York Theatre Royal.

It’s like being served a slice of London’s dirty, stinky Soho before the craft ale brewers and hipster beards moved in. It’s also probably one of the best pieces of theatre you’re likely to see this side of 2020.

This is Emma Rice’s first production since she parted company with Shakespeare’s Globe. Her often left-field approach to the Bard’s work didn’t sit easy with some of the board and her tenure came to a premature end.

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It was a bruising period in the career of one of theatre’s brightest stars. Still, it has made for a glorious comeback and Wise Children feels like a giant raspberry blown in the faces of her critics.

Based on Angela Carter’s last novel, the action spans 75 years and follows the lives and loves of Dora and Nora Chance and their dysfunctional extended family who variously inhabit the underbelly of the cabaret circuit to the heights of classical theatre.

Playing multiple parts, every single member of the 15-strong cast is ridiculously talented. However, Gareth Snook, who embodies the spirit of Hinge and Bracket as older Dora is perfection, and few could rock a naked fat suit like Katy Owen as Grandma Chance.

There is a darkness at the heart of the story about what it means to love and be loved. It’s about regret, it’s about lost youth and it’s about finding the missing pieces of our souls we lose along the way.

However, Wise Children is also a love letter to the life-enhancing power of theatre.

Rice’s production is a triumph and a welcome shot in the arm for the main house of York Theatre Royal where the programming can tend towards the conservative. The Globe’s loss is definitely our gain.

To March 16.