Wise Children

Emma Rice’s Wise Children was streamed on BBC iPlayer and I watched it on the 30th June 2020. The play is based on the novel also called Wise Children by Angela Carter and shows the lives of chorus twins Dora and Nora who are remembering their childhood through to young adults. The magic realism gives a child-friendly take whilst talking about serious topics such as sexual abuse, abandonment, jealousy, and more. The balance between comedy and tragedy is what makes this play so fascinating to watch. The light- hearted nature of the play means that it’s not uncomfortable to watch, so younger viewers won’t be scared but still are told the message. The set is truly creative, there’s a turning caravan when the location changes, to show inside and outside the room. The ensemble moves props such as chairs in and out, which keeps the fluidity of the narrative going and upholds pace.

Particularly, the costume stood out for me. The characters’ clothes had its own personality and gave the characters further dimension. Perhaps the boldest costume is uncle Peregrines. He wears yellow plaited trousers which represent the sick and cruel side to him, whilst the blue shirt shows the paternal role he willingly filled when his twin wanted nothing to do with his daughters. Furthermore, compared to Melchior, his brother, he dresses in a clown-like, playful way, which seems innocent and funny. The complexity of these characters is conveyed through the way they dress.

A moment that shocked me was when Dora told the audience she was abused. Young Dora acts out the events, like a flashback Dora has whilst releasing her trapped memories. I think because the reveal is embedded between cheesy comedy and energetic dancing, the change of tone slices through the atmosphere and catches the audience off guard, which is effective because the audience can then reflect on what they’ve just seen, as shortly after adult Dora makes a funny comment. Uncle Perry throughout the entire play is portrayed as a hero, he is like Dora and Nora’s father and spoils them whenever he visits. The narrators talk about him in endearment, so when things change, it reminds the audience that abuse can come from anyone, therefore the performance tells an important message. In my opinion, this is a brilliant performance for young people, to learn about something so serious, whilst still being engaged in the dances and funny moments.

From this arts event I have learned that being playful, visual (set), physical (theatre) and relatable is the most efficient way to tell a story of tragedy. It's easier to digest than a heart-breaking performance. Even with the momentarily devastating revelations in the narrative, a quick witty moment lightens the atmosphere and helps the audience cope with Dora’s past. The magic realism through lighting, costume and music makes this play inviting for young people too.

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