Wise Children at the Richmond Theatre

A new talent in town

Well, she's new to me, but widely known in London circles. 

I'm talking about Emma Rice, but more on her later. Meantime, if you're near Richmond this week, or Coventry next week, do yourself a favour and get some tickets for this show quickly. Your brain will love you for it. It's a real treat.

That should be a good enough review for most people to go ahead however if you're still reading, then be prepared for the potential of spoilers.  You see, seeing something for the first time is what makes some things exciting, amusing or engaging. I tend to enjoy knowing nothing about a play, and having no expectations and being pleasantly surprised. 

With Wise Children, I felt I was witnessing a genius at work. A bold statement, and not a word I would use often, so let me elaborate

At first it was an ordinary opening to a play, with some of the cast meandering on stage brushing the stage, or limbering up. Audience get settled and off we go. Then the cast break out into song and dance before we are introduced to the main characters who narrate the show from their perspective. Taking us through the journey of their life in the South of London from their great grandparents to present day. One of the two sisters is Emma Rice who we learn later has adapted the play from a novel, directed it, and very confidently plays a lead character too.

The cast work extremely well as a team, with each of their unique talents being brought to the fore. Whether it was tap dancing, saxophone, guitar and drum playing, cartwheels, standup comedy, puppetry, mime or modern dance. The show felt like it was written around the talents, rather than cast appropriately, such was the natural styling of this play.

That's when it hit me. This was carefully crafted from a novel but it was the physical comedy, surreal performances and the laugh out loud humorous movements that kept a smile on my face all the way through. This was where the directors choices merited the genius comment. Sure, the talented cast each brought their best game, but the construct from a blank sheet of paper to engage an audience so much, was where Emma Rice impresses.  

I have no doubt you'll be seeing more Emma Rice after this. She will presumably be getting noticed by TV and Film producers. She's fresh and exciting and could have us all laughing at her adaptation of a telephone directory. 

Wise Children is on at Richmond Theatre until 30th March and then onto the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry. 


Review by Douglas Mcfarlane