AS No Time To Die opens at last, Two Big Egos In A Small Car podcasters Graham Chalmers and Charles Hutchinson consider the future direction of James Bond in the post-Daniel Craig era.
What else is up for debate? Petrol, panic stations and the arts. Angela Carter on sexism in Hollywood before #MeToo. Interviewing Michael Parkinson on the art of interviewing. Defining craft beer – or not – at Harrogate Beer Week.
YORK Theatre Royal will play host to the world premiere of Emma Rice’s long-touted adaptation of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights from November 8 to 20.
Rice’s company, Wise Children, is mounting the touring co-production with the Theatre Royal, the National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic (in the city where Wise Children are based in Spike Island).
Lucy McCormick’s Cathy will lead artistic director Rice’s company of performers and musicians for an elemental stage adaptation that brings new life to the epic Yorkshire moorland story of love, revenge and redemption with Rice’s trademark musical and visual style.
Emma said today: “It is with an earthy spring in my step and epic twinkle in my eye that I announce our new plans for Wuthering Heights. So many projects have fallen by the wayside during lockdown that there were times when I lost hope – but there was no need!
“Wise Children are back; stronger, wiser and grateful for the chance to sing and dance again. The exceptional cast, crew, administrative and creative teams are ready to go and we are fizzing with ideas, dreams and anticipation.
“Emboldened and humbled by the enforced break, I feel truly lucky. I cannot wait to get back to doing what I love most and to share this thrilling and important piece with the world. It’s time.”
Should you need a reminder, this is the Brontë one where, rescued from the Liverpool docks as a child, Heathcliff is adopted by the Earnshaws and taken to live at Wuthering Heights, finding a kindred spirit in Catherine Earnshaw as a fierce love ignites. When forced apart, a brutal chain of events is unleashed.
“Shot through with music, dance, passion and hope, Emma Rice transforms Emily Brontë’s masterpiece into a powerful and uniquely theatrical experience,” the tour publicity states. “Lucy McCormick leads the company of performers and musicians in this intoxicating revenge tragedy for our time, with set and costume design by Vicki Mortimer; sound and video by Simon Baker; composition by Ian Ross; movement and choreography by Etta Murfitt and lighting design by Jai Morjaria.”
Rice’s production will open at Bristol Old Vic with previews from October 11 and livestreams to be confirmed for the first week in November. Before all that, this summer Rice directs her Wise Children adaptation of Percy and Eleonore Adlon’s Bagdad Cafe at The Old Vic, in London, from July 17 to August 21, with a livestream for Old Vic: In Camera 25 on August 28.
Wise Children – the company Rice formed when her artistic directorship of Shakespeare’s Globe ended in acrimony in April 2018 after only two seasons – will be completing a hat-trick of visits to York Theatre Royal after staging Rice’s adaptation of Angela Carter’s Wise Children in March 2019 and Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers in September that year in a co-production with the Theatre Royal.
On that visit came the promise of first news of “a third collaboration between Wise Children and York Theatre Royal, this one with a Yorkshire core and National significance in 2020. Watch this space,” as The Press, York, teased. In other words, after much more space watching than first planned, here comes Wuthering Heights and the National Theatre as co-producers.
In her 2016-2018 tenure at Shakespeare’s Globe, Rice directed Romantics Anonymous, Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Little Matchgirl (and Other Happier Tales).
For the previous 20 years, she had worked for Kneehigh Theatre as an actor, director and artistic director, putting the company on the national map and becoming favourites at West Yorkshire Playhouse (now Leeds Playhouse) on regular sold-out visits to Yorkshire with bravura shows replete with magical storytelling, rumbustious music and circus daring.
However, in a tale of Rice and fall, the news of Wuthering Heights’ tour comes only a day after Kneehigh announced their exit stage left bereft after “changes in artistic leadership raised questions as to whether Kneehigh could sustain their vision going forward”.
In March, founding artistic director, actor, director and teacher Mike Shepherd announced his departure – “the end of this glorious book,” he said – after more than 40 years at Kneehigh. Only two months earlier, deputy artistic director Carl Grose had left too.
The company statement reads in full: “With sadness and regret, the trustees of Kneehigh are announcing the winding down of Kneehigh Theatre.
“While the last year has been a difficult time for many people, including those employed in the arts, performance and theatre, Kneehigh’s financial stability has enabled the company to continue to create work throughout the pandemic.
“Kneehigh is grateful to its principal funder, Arts Council England, and for the significant support received from the Culture Recovery Fund, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the Coastal Communities Fund, Cornwall Council and Garfield Weston Foundation.
“Recent changes in artistic leadership raised questions as to whether Kneehigh could sustain their vision going forward. The trustees and company reflected on a possible new future but concluded that it was better and more responsible to close Kneehigh and ensure an orderly wind-down.”
“The company wants to thank everyone who came to watch the performances, the artists they have had the pleasure to work alongside, the industry collaborators and partners, the volunteers and community groups who shared their time, knowledge and stories, as well as the funders and the friends – all of whom made the work possible.”
Hedda Archbold, chair of the board, said: “The board wants to acknowledge that this is a difficult time for the Kneehigh team. We want to thank them for the excellent work they have done and pay tribute to their passion and commitment to Kneehigh.
“Last Saturday, the brilliant Random Acts Of Art had its final performance. The project has been a high point on which to end. These bold, playful, humorous and thought-provoking creative works brought together dozens of collaborators all across Cornwall, and delighted audiences out and about as well as online.
“Eclectic, anarchic, inspiring and inclusive, it embodied the spirit of Kneehigh we have loved for the past 40 glorious years. Despite the challenges of the past year, it has been an incredible journey filled with joy and delight.”
Bless you, Kneehigh, for the treasured memories, whether at the Playhouse in Leeds or on a holiday visit to the Asylum at Heligan Gardens, Cornwall, in September 2018 for Fup: A Modern Fable. Thank you and goodnight after many a good night. Your work here is done: you changed the face, the reach, the possibilities, of theatre.
Rice’s snap, crackle and pop theatre goes on, however, and tickets are sure to sell fast for Wuthering Heights on 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
YORK Theatre Royal’s co-production of Angela Carter’s Wise
Children, made with Emma
Rice’s company Wise Children and The Old Vic, is now available to stream on BBC
Adapted and directed by Rice, ever-innovative former artistic
director of Cornish company Kneehigh Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe in London,
the show marked the debut of her new Bristol company.
Wise Children was co-produced with The Old Vic, London, where the world premiere opened in 2018, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Oxford Playhouse and York Theatre Royal.
In March 2019, a performance of Rice’s exuberantly impish,
musical vision of Carter’s last novel was filmed live at the York theatre with
support from The Space.
The 138-minute play will be streamed for free for two months
on BBC iPlayer as part Culture In Quarantine, the BBC’s arts and culture
service to “keep the arts alive in people’s homes”. A screening on BBC 4 in May
will be confirmed at a later date.
Billed as a big, bawdy tangle
of theatrical joy and pain, Wise Children is a celebration of show business,
family, forgiveness and hope as Nora and Dora Chance, twin chorus girls
born and bred south of the river, celebrate their 70th birthday in Brixton.
Across the river in Chelsea, their father and greatest actor of his
generation, Melchior Hazard, turns 100, on the same day. As does his twin
brother Peregrine. If, in fact, he is still alive. And if, in truth, Melchior
is their real father after all.
“When I set up Wise Children, I knew I would open with an
adaptation of Wise Children after calling the company that name, presenting Angela
Carter’s open love letter to theatre in all its aspects, its power and glories,”
“I was a great fan of Angela Carter in my 20s. She has had a magical
impact on people’s lives; she’s breath-taking in allowing the unimaginable to
happen, so we fit together well!”
To create her adaptation, Rice read Carter’s novel, then wrote down the story or “what I remember of it”, she said. “I then started working on it with the actors, using their collective imaginations, so that they can pass on their own experiences in theatre.”
Rice has a track record for picking unconventional casts, typically so
for Wise Children. “The actors I’m drawn to over and over again, and the
way I tell stories, reflect how I always like to open up to diversity, expanding
on my own experiences of humanity, especially in these polarised times, by
looking at people who have had different experiences to your own,” she
Against the 2019 backdrop of so much drabness, division, enmity and
lost hope, Rice was determined to champion showbusiness, family, forgiveness
and hope. “They represent a lot of my life,” she said. “When I
talk of family, I mean not only blood family, but how we connect as
Now, Rice is delighted that Wise Children is being streamed from this
week on BBC iPlayer amid the Coronavirus lockdown. “I dreamt about adapting
Angela Carter’s Wise Children for years before it became a reality, and, when I
finally did make it, it was the first piece I made for my new company,” she says.
“It’s a show I carry deep in my heart; a love letter to theatre, to
survival, to family and family of choice. When The Space commissioned us to
film it for the BBC, I almost burst with pride!
“I delight in the fact that we now get to share this glorious story
with so many others, and hope that the fun, truth, love and generosity poured
into it will find its way into sitting rooms across the country.”
Reflecting on Wise Children being part of the BBC’s Culture In Quarantine programming, Rice says: “What feels even more perfect is that we’re releasing it now. Today, more than ever, we need joy, resilience, hope and love of life, which runs through the veins of Wise Children. As Nora and Dora Chance tell us: ‘What a joy it is to dance and sing!’. Never has this been more true. We hope you enjoy.”
Last September, Rice and Wise Children returned to York Theatre Royal
for a second co-production, Enid Blyton’s “original post-war Girl Power story, the naughty, nostalgic
and perfect for now” Malory Towers: her “happy Lord Of The Flies”, as Rice called
Wise Children and the Theatre Royal are
to complete a hattrick of collaborations in 2021, this time in tandem with the
National Theatre for Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.
Charles Hutchinson’s review of Wise Children at York Theatre Royal, March 2019. Copyright of The Press, York.
IMAGINE a Victorian
vaudeville troupe or a circus travelling across Europe picking up performers,
musicians, speciality acts, en route.
It would look not
unlike Emma Rice’s new Wise Children company, set up since she left the
artistic directorship of Shakespeare’s Globe and more in keeping with her 20
years leading Cornish company Kneehigh.
Do not take it the
wrong way when I say Rice’s Wise Children are a modern-day freak show, not in
the overt manner of the Circus of Horrors, but in how Rice celebrates, liberates
and embraces beauty in all forms: a message for this age of Brexit intolerance
for “outsiders” and fashion magazine photo-shopped
Vicki Mortimer’s design
echoes circus in its lighting, while the set is dominated by a caravan, again
recalling travelling troupes in Rice’s adaptation of Angela Carter’s last
novel: a “celebration of showbusiness, family, forgiveness and hope”
that receives a big, bold, bouncy, exuberant, darkly imaginative, saucy
Opening on the 75th
birthday of The Lucky Chances, Brixton showgirl twins Nora and Dora Chance,
Rice’s hyper-production jumps around in time to tell their life story.
On the way she
employs puppetry; glorious live music; theatrical in-jokes; old Bob Monkhouse
and Max Miller gags; Shakespeare quotes; much mischief making, scabrous scandal
and mistaken identities; men playing women, women playing men, and multiple
versions of the same character at different ages.