New adaptation of The Company of Wolves to headline New Vic 2024 Season

New Vic Artistic Director Theresa Heskins and Upswing Artistic Director Vicki Amedume follow up their collaboration on Olivier award-winning The Worst Witch and the New Vic’s critically-acclaimed production of Dracula in 2015 with Angela Carter’s gripping gothic horror, The Company of Wolves.

New Vic Artistic Director Theresa Heskins said: “For my entire career I’ve wanted to bring Carter’s dazzling story The Company of Wolves to the stage. It’s taken me a long time to realise how to do it. The live Foley sound effects combined with dynamic circus content, which we pioneered in Dracula to sinister and sensual effect, will allow us to bring to life this impossible-to-stage tale of werewolves and danger. It feels as though this is just the right time for Carter’s ahead-of-her-own-time brand of rule breaking, provocation and power politics to hit the stage. It’s inspiring to once again be collaborating with circus choreographer Vicki Amedume. We’ve been developing a fusion of theatre and circus which is now the foundation of a major partnership programme between the New Vic and Upswing, aiming to push the boundaries of this combined artform. I’m thinking of this production as circus / theatre / spoken word fusion.”

The New Vic’s eagerly anticipated adaptation of Angela Carter’s radio play and novella, The Company of Wolves, will be co-directed by Heskins and longtime collaborator Vicki Amedume of Upswing (who collaborated on 2020’s Olivier award-winning The Worst Witch).  On stage from Friday 20 September to Saturday 12 October, this iconic gothic horror version of the Red Riding Hood tale will be brought to life through a combination of thrilling drama and contemporary circus action and is the next production to be staged as part of the New Vic and Upswing’s circus-theatre programme of work. Theatrical innovation, including the use of Foley and an evocative soundscape alongside spectacular aerial acrobatics with the use of Chinese Pole, will fuse together to create a suspenseful drama of epic proportions.

Find out more about the production here

Book of a lifetime: Shaking a Leg

Susannah Clapp warmly remembers her wild and imperious friend through her collected journalism – struck by its forthrightness, imagination, unpredictability, ferocity and exactitude

It is her fairy stories that are credited with changing people’s lives. It is her novels for which her prose gets most praise. Angela Carter refashioned the docility of fairytale heroines – Sleeping Beauty, she observed, did not have much “get up and go” – and invented creatures who were wild and wilful.

She gave fictional prose a good going-over with her rich swerves between fantasy and realism. Yet it is her journalism, collected in the 1997 volume Shaking a Leg, to which I find myself returning again and again, struck freshly by its forthrightness, its imagination, its unpredictability – and by the sheer range of subjects on which she was fluent.

She wrote with dashing erudition and explosive force on psychoanalysis, on Christina Stead and on the importance of the potato. She told us that DH Lawrence was “a stocking man, not a leg man”, that her grandmother had something of St Pancras station about her, and that Cagney and Lacey was “propaganda, not for the police but for women as free, equal citizens”. She made you feel she was always speaking her own truth. (read the full article here)

Marquis de Sade, a feminist icon?

Novelist Angela Carter’s surprising take on a notorious writer


Social constructs and questions of control are preoccupations the late British writer Angela Carter returns to time and time again. This is especially true of the inflammatory piece of feminist non-fiction Carter published in 1979: The Sadeian Woman: And the Ideology of Pornography.

Carter, who died from cancer in 1992, was a true creative trailblazer. A novelist, fabulist, journalist and editor, deeply influenced by the women’s movement of the 1960s, she played with genres from fairy tales and science fiction to magic realism and radio drama. She is known for works such as The Bloody Chamber (1979) and Wise Children (1991).

Her work is eerily prescient and continues to resonate. The Passion of New Eve (1977), for instance, is a transgressive feminist novel set in a post-apocalyptic United States. Tellingly, Carter described this novel as an “anti-mythic” work about “the social creation of femininity”.

Two years later, she published her take on the French writer the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814). Commissioned by the feminist publishing house, Virago, The Sadeian Woman attempts the near impossible, claiming Sade as a proto-feminist author.

Fact from fiction

Novelist Francine du Plessix Gray has described Sade (whose real name was Donatien Alphonse François) as “one of the few men in history whose names have spawned adjectives” and “the only writer who will never lose his capacity to shock us.”

But who was he? Carter’s introductory note to The Sadeian Woman is useful:

Sade was born in 1740, a great nobleman; and died in 1814, in a lunatic asylum, a poor man. His life spans the entire period of the French Revolution and he died in the same year that Napoleon abdicated and the monarchy was restored to France. He stands on the threshold of the modern period, looking both backward and forwards, at a time when the nature of human nature and of social institutions was debated as freely as it is in our own.

Yet Carter neglects to mention Sade is one of the most notorious writers in recorded history.

Insane pornographer. Sexual pervert. Woman beater. Child rapist. Murderer. As the professor of French literature John Phillips has observed, these are “some of the more lurid labels” that have been attached – sometimes erroneously – to Sade over the last two centuries.

Sade is the author of 120 Days of Sodom amongst other works, a novel so repellent that, in the words of the philosopher and pornographer George Bataille, one cannot finish it “without feeling sick”. Two of Sade’s other major novels were Justine, or, The Misfortunes of Virtue (which describes the sexual brutalising of a 12-year-old virgin) and Juliette, or, The Prosperities of Vice, chronicling the adventures of Justine’s libertine older sister.

The shocking nature of Sade’s writing causes problems, especially because readers have difficulty distinguishing fact from fiction when it comes to him.

Sade was responsible for unquestionably abhorrent criminal behaviour in his personal life, such as when he kidnapped and abused Rose Keller, a 36-year-old beggar woman. He was found guilty of rape, sodomy and torture in the case of Keller. Once released, he went on to commit a series of other crimes. For these offences, Sade spent decades in prisons or insane asylums.

Sade started writing while incarcerated. His brutally deterministic fictional universe is one where, in his own words,

it is essential that the unfortunate should suffer. Their humiliation and their pain are numbered among the laws of Nature, and their existence is essential to her overall plan, as is that of the prosperity that crushes them.

Unpalatable as this may be, it is hard to ignore Sade. He has inspired artists and thinkers such as writers Gustave Flaubert, André Breton and Michel Foucault, film-maker Pier Paolo Pasolini and the feminist philosopher Simone du Beauvoir. The latter reasoned

Sade drained to the dregs the moment of selfishness, injustice, misery, and he insisted upon its truth. The supreme value of his testimony lies in its ability to disturb us. It forces us to re-examine thoroughly the basic problem which haunts our age in different forms: the true relation between man and man.

Angela Carter, who knew her Beauvoir, advances a similar argument in The Sadiean Woman. Carter’s interest in Sade dates back to the beginning of the 1970s, when she contemplated writing a PhD entitled “De Sade: Culmination of the Enlightenment”. (read the full article here)


Eileen Cooper on illustrating Angela Carter

The acclaimed British artist talks illustrating her first novel in a Creative Boom exclusive, as The Folio Society releases a new edition of a 20th-century classic resplendent with Eileen’s art.

A tale of love, magic, circuses and lies, Nights at the Circus is now available in a glorious new edition from distinguished publishers The Folio Society. With illustrations by celebrated printmaker Eileen Cooper, the release marks the novel’s first-ever illustrated edition. The book also comes accompanied by an exhibition of Cooper’s work, with an introduction by renowned novelist Sarah Waters.

In our interview, we learn more about Eileen Cooper’s work and vision for the book, including nine original colour lino-cut collages and a monoprint title page spread. All of the pieces perfectly suit Angela Carter’s wildly original storytelling and gorgeously slippery language, and what Waters describes as the author’s unique power to ‘unsettle as well as to inspire and console.’

A Royal Academician, Eileen has credited fairy tales, mythology and the female figure as core inspirations for her work, making her the perfect artist to bring the late Carter’s lush imagery to life. Each illustration is bold, striking, impossible to look away from. The chapter headings feature the ordinary and extraordinary totems of the life story of the half-woman, half-swan Sophie Fevvers. The tale recounts journalist Jack Walser’s quest to expose Sophie as a fraud, but who instead finds himself captivated by her beauty and strangeness, in a book widely regarded as a classic of British literature.
Nights at the Circus is such a classic book, and I would love to know what the book means to you as both reader and artist. Also, how did the project come about?

Sheri Gee, Art Director at The Folio Society, had asked me if I was interested in illustrating a book for them quite a few years ago. My answer was an immediate ‘Yes’; then we decided to wait until the perfect book came up. I think it was clever of them to pair me with Angela Carter as there is a strong magic realist element in both our work.

I had read several of Angela Carter’s books many years ago, including The Bloody Chamber, which resonated with me. I hadn’t read Nights at the Circus, so this seemed like a real gift to me. Also, I hadn’t’ studied’ a book in this way since school!

The challenge for all readers is the sheer volume of characters Angela Carter presents us with. I particularly connected to the strong female characters and their journey both in terms of physical travel and individual growth. The main character Sophie is radical, exciting and funny, causing some controversy amongst feminists when the book was first published. It’s a hugely important and influential book. I’m very touched that I have had this opportunity to connect so deeply with it.

How would you say your pieces capture Carter’s vision?

This is a difficult question. I’m not an illustrator, so being an artist, I bring something to the text which is possibly more controversial than getting an experienced illustrator to do the job. I bring the wealth and depth of my own imagery, built up over 40 years as a practising artist. Perhaps some readers who love the book and know it in detail may take issue with my illustrations.

What do you think the author would have made of the final work?

All I can say is that I was inspired, and I learnt a lot about the book and Angela Carter. I believe she would have responded positively to my work; I’m sure she’d be open-minded and receptive to another creative wholeheartedly embracing her story. I feel very sad that she’s not here to see what I’ve done.

Have you worked with books before? If not, how was the experience for you?

I’m not an illustrator, so this way of working on a brief was new to me. Happily, I was given great freedom and some ‘artistic licence’. In fact, I did several more illustrations than were originally required.

I had previously done some small monochrome illustrations for a children’s book of poems by Carol Ann Duffy in 1995, with a full-colour front cover. That was the only other illustration project.

(read the full interview at Creative Boom)

Fairy Tale Day 2021: short stories from Grimm to Angela Carter

Delve back into your childhood or discover a brand-new book with our selection of tomes

(from the Independent)

Whether it was through stories read to us at bedtime or from a classic Disney film we watched a thousand times, everyone has a favourite fairy tale.

Perhaps it’s Cinderella, with her magical glass slippers, or Hansel and Gretel’s run-in with a cannibalistic witch and her house made of sweets, or maybe you loved it when Little Red Riding Hood bested the big bad wolf?

For thousands of years, fairy tales have been passed down from generation to generation. They’ve been danced to, sung about or in the case of any Disney blockbuster, turned into multimillion dollar films.

While many came about simply because there wasn’t much as to do, just as many were made up in order to force naughty children to behave (admit it, you were terrified of being turned into a pie when you were young!).

In honour of National Tell A Fairy Tale Day (26 February) we’ve reviewed some of the best fairy tale collections on bookshelves right now so you can delve back into your childhood or discover a brand-new story.

We looked for tomes that included a wide variety of tales and particularly focused on collections that included stories from around the world and that are often overlooked. We’ve tried to find books that have something for all ages as well. Finally, these books had to be beautifully designed.

It’s time to pull out a blanket and snuggle up with tales of princes and princesses, magical creatures, evil villains and worlds plucked straight for our imaginations.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

‘Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales’ by Angela Carter, published by Virago

It wouldn’t be a round-up if we didn’t mention something the queen of feminist fairy tales herself, Angela Carter. Of course you’ll have likely heard ofThe Bloody Chamber (which we decided not to include here as it’s so well known), but another wonderful offering from the author is Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales. This collection features tales about all sorts of women, from crafty deviants to maidens who aren’t quite damsels-in-distress, and compiles stories from all parts of the globe.

The book itself, which is beautifully illustrated with woodcuts created by Corinna Sargood, has been split up into 13 sections that deal with certain themes: “Good girls and where it gets them”; “Married women”; and “Clever women, resourceful girls and desperate stratagems” are a few. These tales are often gory and include a lot of adult humour – it’s probably best to not give this to anyone younger than 13 years old.

Why we are living in ‘Gothic times’

“We live in Gothic times,” declared Angela Carter back in 1974. It’s a theme Carlos Ruiz Zafón took up several decades later: “Ours is a time with a dark heart, ripe for the noir, the gothic and the baroque”, he wrote in 2010. Both authors had good reason. The Gothic has always been about far more than heroines in Victorian nightgowns, trapped in labyrinthine ancestral homes, and along with the supernatural, its imaginings probe power dynamics and boundaries, delving deep into disorder and duality.

If the 1970s (think the oil crisis, Watergate, a spike in “skyjackings”) primed readers to be receptive to such elements, it was a decade destined to be far outdone by the start of the 21st Century in terms of horror and upheaval (9/11, the global financial crisis, an intensified fear of climate apocalypse). The world seems to have grown only more uncertain in the years since, and it’s certainly tough to rival the age of Covid for gothic motifs made manifest. Claustrophobia? Try successive lockdowns spent working, learning, and socialising from home. Isolation? Ditto. Fear of a past that can’t be exorcised? Sounds a lot like “long Covid”.

Gothic literature is as long-lived as any curse or fanged anti-hero. Two-and-a-half centuries have passed since it was born into a Britain on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution’s wrenching change, and while the genre has never really left Western culture, there’s no doubting that this is boomtime for narratives that dare to peer into the darkest corners. As Stephen King puts it, in words crying out for a gothic font, “We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.” So, no, that sound you hear isn’t some heavy-footed ghoul advancing up the stairs, it’s the thud of new Gothic-inflected tomes hitting the shelves by the dozen, and if most were written pre-pandemic, their themes and imagery nevertheless speak to us with eerie clarity in the present moment.

In coming months, fans can visit a castle-turned-girls’ boarding school that harbours tenebrous secrets in Phoebe Wynne’s Madam (Quercus), reimagine the life of Pride and Prejudice’s Miss Anne de Bourgh in Molly Greeley’s The Heiress (Hodder & Stoughton), and learn about the true story of an engineer and a medium in Big Brother finalist AJ West’s debut, The Spirit Engineer (Duckworth). The past oozes into the present in AJ Elwood’s The Cottingley Cuckoo (Titan), based around the famous Cottingley fairy photograph hoax, while Lizzie Fry’s The Coven (Sphere) imagines a world in which witchcraft is real, and a demagogue US president is out to hunt down its practitioners.

Feeling pre-apocalyptic? Sue Rainsford describes the lives of twins holed up on an abandoned commune in Redder Days (Doubleday). Want a horror hybrid? Catriona Ward’s twisty The Last House on Needless Street (Viper) features a missing child and a woman out for revenge. Meanwhile, in The Deception of Harriet Fleet, Helen Scarlett (Quercus) adds feminist riffs to a Victorian narrative, Karen Coles’ The Asylum (Wellbeck) draws on family history to explore mental health mistreatment, and Edwardian West Yorkshire provides a tantalisingly lonely setting for Mrs England (Manilla Press), Stacey Halls’s account of control and deception.
(read the full article at BBC Culture)