Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Wise Children’

Another stage adaptation of a book I haven’t read, Emily Bronte’s 1847 novel, in a version by Emma Rice for her company Wise Children. It’s quite a challenge given it’s a relatively complex tale covering three generations of two families. I felt it succeeded in part, though fell short of Rice’s best work.

It starts brilliantly with a storm, during which Lockwood visits Heathcliff, his landlord, at his moorland home Wuthering Heights. One of Rice’s inspired moves is to make the moors themselves a chorus. From here we are told about the entangled lives of both the Earnshaws, their children Hindley & Catherine and adopted orphan Heathcliff, and the Lintons, with their children Edgar and Isabella, plus the next generation – Hareton, the son of Frances Earnshaw and Cathy Linton and Linton, the son of Isabella and Heathcliff – leading up to that moment.

From soon after the opening until we meet the young Linton at the beginning of the second half, I felt it lost it’s way a bit, the storytelling laboured and somewhat forced and the ingenuity we’ve come to expect from Rice on hold, though in all fairness my companions didn’t agree, so maybe I lost interest / concentration. Anyway, the second half was very much a return to form, both in terms of storytelling and imaginative stagecraft. There’s a lot of movement and music, maybe too much, though the chorus is excellent. The screen backdrop, most effective projecting flights of birds in unison with their creation by books on stage could maybe have been used more.

Ash Hunter is a charismatic Heathcliff, troubled and troubling. Nandi Bhebhe is excellent as the head of the moors, leading their vocal narrative. I really liked Tama Phethean’s characterisation of Hareton, an imposing presence. Katy Owen almost steals the show as the frail young Linton. It’s overlong at 2 hours 50 mins and if they tightened the narrative and lost some of the first half’s ninety minutes it might be a better play. There’s lots to enjoy, though I can’t say it has made me want to read the book.

Read Full Post »

Emma Rice is first and foremost a storyteller. She sprinkles her stories with an inventiveness that makes them sparkle. Her best work, like Brief Encounter, Romantics Anonymous, The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk and Tristan & Yseult is captivating. The problem with this adaptation of Percy & Eleonore Adlon’s German indie film is that there isn’t enough story. What comes out is still inventive, with exceptional stagecraft and excellent performances, but it isn’t substantial enough. I admired the work that had gone into it, but I was left thinking ‘what’s the point?’. Maybe she’s too close to the source (her favourite film) to be truly objective?

It’s set in the Mojave Desert in the South West US at a cafe / gas station miles from nowhere. Two German tourists are passing through, but for some reason Herr Munchgstettner abandons his wife Jasmin there. She befriends the bartenders, truckers and other travellers who are also passing through, makes herself useful enough to earn her stay there, and bonds with proprietor Brenda. Cue songs, magic and some dance, and that’s about it really. It’s more of a stage picture than a story, which is the crux of the issue for me.

The Old Vic stage transforms well into this desert landscape in Lez Brotherston & Vicki Mortimer’s design. There’s some good music, with Sandra Marvin and Le Gateau Chocolat in particularly good voice. There’s a fine collection of quirky characters passing through. In addition to the magic, there’s some mime, puppetry and other bits of fun business. The community choir on video at the curtain call was a lovely touch. It just doesn’t go anywhere, and in comparison with most of Rice’s work left me hungry. Idiosyncratic and charming, but slight and insubstantial.

Read Full Post »

This is the second production from Wise Children, Emma Rice’s new company, following the show also called Wise Children. It wasn’t scheduled to come to London, so I went to Cambridge, which probably guarantees it will now come to London!

It’s based on the first of Enid Blyton’s books of the same name, set in a girls boarding school in Cornwall soon after the Second World War. Six schoolgirls arrive for their first term, joined by another held back a year. Each represents an archetype – the bully, the bossy one, the class clown, the timid one and so on. The clash between these very different personalities is the source of much of the story, though there’s an unplanned adventure and a school play to put on. It became a bit darker, with an injection of feminism, in the second half, which I liked. We don’t meet any of the staff, though the Headmistress is represented in animation, voiced by Sheila Hancock.

There are songs, including a handful of new ones by Ian Ross & Emma Rice and standards like Mr Sandman, with live piano accompaniment from Stephanie Hockley, occasionally joined by members of the cast on other instruments. There are clever projections and animations onto the second, classroom, level of Lez Brotherston’s set, with the front stage the dormitory. The seven performers are excellent, perfectly capturing the archetypes and the period. Yet there’s something missing – it has less of the inventiveness we’ve become used to with Rice’s work, it’s a bit slow to take off and it lacks some sparkle. That said, there’s a lot to enjoy and it was a somewhat nostalgic, chirpy show, if not not vintage Rice.

Read Full Post »