Emma Rice brings “Wise Children” to Manchester.

Acclaimed director, Emma Rice is bringing her adaptation of Angela Carter’s 1991 novel to Manchester.

Wise Children is the first production from Emma’s new theatre company and will run for a week at HOME Theatre, Manchester from February 26 to Saturday March 2. For information or to book tickets, click here.

Wise Children

 

 

The play spans three generations as the twins tell the story of their lives up until their 75th birthday. The sisters live in Brixton, while their father who doesn’t recognise them lives in Chelsea. We caught up with Emma, the former artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe, ahead of the show’s arrival in Manchester next week.

Emma said: “Everybody can relate to this, it’s about illegitimacy and legitimacy, privilege and poverty, family of choice vs family of blood – such universal things that we can really relate to. “It’s about getting older too – it’s got age and beauty.

“The power of theatre is allowing us to all inhabit these two women at all stages of their life.”

Each character is played by three different actors at each stage of their lives. Born in Brixton, the twins work as showgirls.

Emma said: “We go to Brighton comedians on the pier. We go to burlesque, and Shakespeare as well. It’s got high art, it’s got low art and lots of family secrets.”

Wise Children is the debut play for Emma’s new theatre company, which is also named Wise Children. Having studied acting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Emma went on to work as an actor for many years before moving into directing – working on various shows from small theatres to West End productions. In January 2016, Emma became the artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London; a position she held until April 2018. Emma tells us that audiences will see more of her in this production than you would see if you see her acting. Talking of her new theatre company, Emma said: “Wise Children is a love letter to theatre. The two words are perfect. I need to be really smart, use all the experience I’ve got to be clever and make this work for me. I also need to keep my innocence and joy. Great theatre is smart and silly.”

‘The Sadeian Woman’: How Angela Carter empowered her readers to embrace sexual liberation

The influence of the British author’s feminist reframing of pornography and women is demonstrated in a letter by performer and Drag King pioneer, Diane Torr.

This story begins with a serendipitous find at the British Library, during a research trip to examine the archives of writer Angela Carter. Carter’s correspondence attests to the friendships and literary connections that she formed during her life. But on that particular trip it was a single letter sent to Carter by performer, activist and Drag King pioneer Diane Torrthat caught my attention.

More than just fan mail, Torr’s six-page letter is a powerful narrative of her life, as well as fascinating evidence of how Carter’s work effectively empowered her readers. The letter begins:

I have been composing letters to you in my head since I first read your book The Sadeian Woman 2 years ago but now I really have to do it as I leave for England in a week & I was hoping to maybe have the opportunity to meet you. [sic]

Dated March 1, 1983, Torr’s letter, sent from Berlin, makes for arresting reading. Torr recounts her life as a temporary office employee struggling to make a living from her real craft, dance, and tells of how she moonlights as a go-go dancer to boost her earnings. What is most striking about the letter is its sense of urgency. Torr’s writing demands that her reader – Carter – bear witness to her life’s fight for recognition. The letter seems to have been written feverishly, in one sitting, with the ink changing colour mid-sentence about halfway through the pages.

Torr tells of how the writer’s 1978 polemic The Sadeian Woman allowed her to reconcile the different aspects of her life: her position of subjugation in the office, her desire to be a performer recognised for her skills, and her nightly transformation into the object of male sexual desire. As Torr states:

By the time I had finished your book, I was really transformed – not exactly a Juliette, but I knew how to sell my body & at the same time how to maintain a sense of my own subjective reality within each strange place I would travel to.

(read the full article at Scroll.in)

The draft typescript of The Sadeian Woman is available to read at the British Library Website.

Angela Carter was a master of radio drama

Kate Chisholm in The Spectator

The writer Angela Carter (born in 1940) grew up listening to the wireless, her love of stories, magic and the supernatural fed by Children’s Hour, and especially a strange, frightening and yet captivating dramatisation of John Masefield’s novel Box of Delights. In the introduction to Sunday’s Drama on Three, which gave us two of her plays written for radio, Carter (voiced by Fiona Shaw) says that what she particularly likes about the medium is the way the listener has to (or is allowed to) contribute to the narrative, adding their imagination, their mind-pictures, their own way of seeing. Carter, just like Tom Stoppard, Harold Pinter or Howard Barker, really understood how to make the most of radio’s potential to make real the inner voice and relished the freedom to play with text and meaning unbound by concrete limitations.

In Vampirella (first broadcast in 1976 and here directed by Fiona McAlpine) Carter criss-crosses in an instant between subjective and objective reality. She was, she says, inspired to write it by the sound of her fingernails trailing across the top of the radiator in her study while she was sitting at her desk waiting to find something, anything, to write about. That sound made her think of a gilded birdcage, a hand cursed with nails three inches long, ‘fit only for gouging’. The daughter of Count Dracula, last in the line that began with Vlad the Impaler, is trapped in that darkened castle of popular myth somewhere in Transylvania, waiting for someone to come and release her. Up turns a stalwart Englishman, straight out of empire, who’s bicycling across the Carpathian mountains in search of adventure. An unfortunate accident lands him in the castle and at the mercy of those nails (brilliantly voiced by Jessica Raine, moving between menace and seductive charm at a whisper) and Vampirella’s Scottish sidekick, Mrs Beane, a ‘stern,tartan governess’, who ‘has a mouth like a steel trap’.

Carter might indulge in fantasy but her message is always pointed and her language richly coloured yet never indulgent. Sunshine becomes a kind of ‘irradiated darkness’; Vampirella’s hair falls down ‘inconsolably as rain’; the ‘angel of inquietude’ stirs in every corner. After escaping, saved by a passionless kiss and ‘the cold showers of my celibacy’, our Hero arrives in Bucharest to hear about the assassination in Sarajevo. The Count lives on ‘behind every battlefield’.

(read the full article here)

BBC Two: “Angela Carter: Of Wolves And Women”

On August 4, BBC Two will broadcast Of Wolves and Women, a dark and delicious foray into Angela Carter’s extraordinary life narrated by by Sally Phillips. The programme will be available on BBC iPlayer shortly after broadcast.

Pioneering her own distinctive brand of magic realism, works like The Magic Toyshop and Nights At The Circus cracked open the middle-class conventions of the post-war novel and influenced a new generation of writers.

Hattie Morahan as Angela Carter

Yet in her lifetime Carter’s fierce politics, frank exploration of gender, and fondness for the supernatural unnerved the macho literary establishment. She never won the Booker Prize or received the staggering advances of her male contemporaries – and regularly struggled to pay the bills, despite creating the acclaimed film The Company Of Wolves.

Four decades on, Carter’s powerful tales of desire, fearless women and monstrous sexual predators have never felt more relevant. As Jeanette Winterson says in the film: “Every woman writing now has a debt to Angela Carter, whether or not they have read her. She was ahead of her time. And that’s why we’re so interested in her now because she’s coming into her time almost prophetically.”

While Carter’s early work drew on her creepily claustrophobic childhood and miserable early marriage; it was her experience of living in Japan in the 1970s that liberated both her writing and her sexuality.

And she continued to live out of kilter with polite society, horrifying critics with expletive laden put-downs, falling in love with a teenage builder in her 30s, becoming a mother at 43 – and, tragically, winning the reviews of her career for Wise Children, the week after her death at the age of 51.

Made by the award-winning team behind The Secret Life Of Sue Townsend (Aged 68 ¾), with animation by Emmy award-winning Peepshow Collective, this film is a visual treat inspired by the surreal imagery of Carter’s fiction.

Hattie Morahan plays the young Angela (with extracts from unpublished letters and diaries), while Maureen Lipman, Kelly MacDonald and Laura Fraser read from Carter’s fiction.

Including rare archive and family photos, with contributions from Angela’s friends, family, students and admirers – including Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Jeanette Winterson and Anne Enright.

Emma Rice announces UK tour of “Wise Children”

Emma Rice has announced that her new company’s first production, the stage adaptation of Angela Carter’s novel Wise Children, will tour the UK following its world premiere at the Old Vic in October.

The piece, which is about twin chorus girls and their bizarre theatrical family, runs at the Old Vic from 8 October to 10 November, before touring to Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol, York and Coventry, with further venues to be announced soon.

Created and led by the former Shakespeare’s Globe artistic director, Wise Children is based in the south west with the aim to create ensemble work to tour nationally and internationally.

To mark the launch of the company, tickets for the final dress rehearsal at the Old Vic will be available free, available through a lottery via Wise Children’s website.

Performances at Oxford Playhouse 13 – 17 November 2018

Performances at Cambridge Arts Theatre 20 – 24 November 2018

Performances at York Theatre Royal 5 Mar – 16 Mar  2019

Pussy

Last year, Renato’s Theatre Company in Bristol have transformed Angela Carter’s story ‘Puss-in-Boots’ into a stage musical  on the 25th anniversary of her death with an exciting adaptation of her celebrated short story. The company write that through a combination of “feline musicality, […] bawdy wit and undertones of gender issues still relevant today, this production promises to be uplifting, wickedly funny and suitably provocative!”  There are rumours that the musical will be revived this year – more details when we have them.

Emma Rice: ‘I don’t know how I got to be so controversial’

(from The Observer)

‘You’ve one path in life, which is your integrity, your vision, your soul”: Emma Rice.

“It was on Shakespeare’s birthday,” says Emma Rice, remembering the April day in 2018 when she walked away from the Globe theatre. After only two seasons as its artistic director, she had received what amounted to a vote of no confidence from the board that had appointed her, and her departure caused an outcry in the world of theatre. “The heavens opened as I left,” she remembers, “and something washed away at that moment. I had such a sense of the narrative of my life…”

We are sitting in an office in Bristol’s Spike Island, the building in which Rice’s new company, Wise Children, is installed (about which more in a moment). Two years on, Rice looks splendid, with exclamatory hair, silver hoop earrings and festive yellow clogs. She is feeling “euphoric” at having started a new chapter. Yet her eyes have a complicated look as the subject of the Globe looms: sadness mixed with humour. She has barely talked about it publicly since she left. “I feel gratitude and relief that two years of transition are over. Not that I wanted what happened to happen – I didn’t.” She loved the space, audience and excitement at the Globe: “I will miss it until the day I die.”

The reason offered for her departure was that the powers that be did not like her unconventional use of sound and lighting (her opening production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream had a disco feel – David Bowie as a garnish to Shakespeare). The Globe prides itself on its natural effects, but she knew, as an open letter she posted on the Globe’s website revealed, that this was about more than lighting: her artistic vision was no longer trusted. She could not continue. “My artistic process is all I have,” she says.

“I felt like Polonius behind the curtain,” she admits, laughing sadly. What she means is that when they stabbed her, they had not intended to finish her off. “They were surprised when I didn’t get up. That’s my guess. When I started working at the Globe, I came on too strong. I met the space with artistic frenzy, it was so exciting – the lights, the sounds. I don’t think they imagined I’d leave. They thought I’d accept new guidelines, that I’d want the job more than my practice. My guess is they were shocked when I said: ‘Absolutely not’. I felt like Tina Turner. [Turner refused to give up her name in the divorce courts: ‘I’ve worked too hard for it.’] You’ve one path in life, which is your integrity, your vision, your soul. It was never an option to stay.”

Biography Prize for The Invention of Angela Carter

Edmund Gordon has won the Biographers’ Club Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize 2017 for The Invention of Angela Carter, a finely judged and elegantly written biography, in which Gordon teases out the truth behind Angela Carter’s fictions about her own life, while recounting the brilliant and volatile career of this born writer, critic and fabulist.

 

Sam Leith, Literary Editor of The Spectator and judge of the Best First Biography Prize commented ‘This was an exceptional shortlist, in which every book showed not only thorough knowledge of its subject but deep and sympathetic understanding. From the Tudor court, to the battlefields of the First World War, from a busy Obs/Gynae ward on the NHS to the august halls of the National Gallery, from a book-lined study to a Japanese love-hotel, we were thoroughly immersed, too, in the worlds these books inhabit. In the end, though, we had to pick a first among equals. And for its elegant writing, fastidious research and becomingly modest yet entirely authoritative portrait of its fascinating subject and her unique work, we chose Edmund Gordon’s The Invention Of Angela Carter as our winner.’

A Warm Biography of the Fantastical, Feminist Angela Carter

By Dwight Garner (New York Times)

The English writer Angela Carter (1940-1992) tended to look, one observer said, “like someone who’d been left out in a hurricane.” She liked to make an impression, and her hair was often wild. She wore, when young, what she termed “a reasonably suave Jimi Hendrix cut.”

She enjoyed floppy hats, tattered furs, large eyeglasses. Boredom was her enemy. Carter was a disrupter of dull dinner parties. A friend called her a “raconteur of glee.” If she rang you on the phone, you’d clear your schedule for the afternoon.

She was a similarly disruptive agent in British fiction. Her novels, when they began arriving in the late 1960s, were unlike the button-down realism that then prevailed. They were fantastical, feminist, absurdist, sexy. She tinkered with genres (fairy tales, horror, science fiction, gothic) most literary writers scorned.

Carter found an audience before she died, at 51, of lung cancer. But it was only after her death that her reputation was secured, and it has continued to rise. The Times of London, in 2008, ranked Carter 10th on its list of “the 50 greatest writers since 1945.” In 2012, her novel “Nights at the Circus” was named the best of the winners of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

Like all the best writers, she was incapable of phoning anything in. Her fiction aside, Carter’s thick book of collected journalism, travel writing, criticism and essays, “Shaking a Leg” (1997), is its own erudite stay against dullness.

Now we have “The Invention of Angela Carter,” the first full-length biography, and it will consolidate her position. Edmund Gordon has written a terrific book — judicious, warm, confident and casually witty. The ratio of insight to literary-world gossip, of white swan to black swan, is as well calibrated as one of Sara Mearns’s impossible balletic leaps.

Gordon has had the good fortune to seize upon, for his subject, not only an important writer but one who led a deeply interesting life. This bio unfolds a bit like one of the fairy tales Carter shook to release its meaning. The pages turn themselves.

(read the full review in the NY Times)