Emma Rice returned to
As Daily Info took its seat in the auditorium, it was heartening to see an audience packed with students. There has always been something approachable about Rice's work at Kneehigh, the Shakespeare Globe, and now with Wise Children. Often dealing with adult themes, they are nevertheless accessible productions that seem particularly suitable for a wide audience. The talk was split between focusing on her current production and expanding out into her career, and what advice she can give to those interested in pursuing a career in arts.
It was fascinating to hear how important Wise Children, and Angela Carter as a whole, were to Rice, with Carter being a key writer of the director's student days. Carter's work offered the role models Rice sought at that age, with The Bloody Chamber acting as an entry point. These are tales of wild women, capable of anything and not victimised by life, often as part of a retelling of a familiar story. Added to this is a complicated, honest view of sex, and there is a lot in Carter's work you can see reflected back down through Rice's.
Rice went into great detail on the process of adapting Carter's hefty novel. Without an overbearing estate to deal with (Carter's final wish was that people take her stories and do with them what they like, as long as they reimbursed her children), it gave Rice the freedom she needed. Adapting initially from memory, she was able to chop out two large sections of the novel that would have made adaptation particularly difficult, whilst adding in lines from other works, notably Rice's poetry. Once she marshalled it into some kind of script, the show was workshopped twice, bringing in initial ideas for design and music, and then brought into a rehearsal room for five weeks. Often working with the same people, Rice placed faith in them and gave them freedom, so that elements were less in the director's hands.
Wild Children was THE production for Rice to bounce back with after her time in charge of the Shakespeare Globe. Bubbling away inside her for eight years, it was a production she initially contemplated at the Globe. And then she was removed from her post, two years in. Rice did not shy away from this, probably one of the most public incidents of the creative's career. She was diplomatic and honest, sometimes brutally so, about the disconnect between herself and other parties, who were deeply invested in the Globe. It was clear she'd miss the venue, but that they didn't click. The director was upfront about her failures, about how long it took her to achieve success, and extraordinarily sympathetic to a generation growing up where there is enormous pressure for success.
Our audience left invigorated by one of the great directors currently working in theatre. She was honest, inspiring, breathtakingly smart and yet entirely approachable. There were enough teases for something special coming from the director next (probably in 2019) that we all knew this would be far from the last time Rice would visit