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Wise Children on now at the Cambridge Arts Theatre

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Katy Owen in Wise Children. Picture: Steve Tanner
Katy Owen in Wise Children. Picture: Steve Tanner

Adapted by Emma Rice, the former artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe in London, this new play is based on the last novel by the late Angela Carter.

Katy Owen in Wise Children. Picture: Steve Tanner
Katy Owen in Wise Children. Picture: Steve Tanner

The date is April 23 – Shakespeare’s birthday – and in Brixton, Nora and Dora Chance are celebrating their 75th birthday.

On the other side of the river in Chelsea, their father and the greatest actor of his generation, Melchior Hazard, turns 100 on the same day – as does his twin brother, Peregrine, if, in fact, he’s still alive.

The big and bawdy Wise Children – from Emma’s new theatre company, which is also called Wise Children – is a celebration of showbusiness, family, forgiveness and hope. Expect showgirls, sex, scandal and mistaken identity.

In this lavish stage production, which opened at London’s Old Vic to rave reviews in October, Katy Owen plays Nora and Dora’s magnificently coarse, and frequently nude, Grandma Chance.

Katy Owen in Wise Children. Picture: Steve Tanner
Katy Owen in Wise Children. Picture: Steve Tanner

“It’s an epic family saga,” said Katy. “It’s about these twin sisters who are looking back on their lives at their 75th birthday.

“The plot is so complex, but basically they come from a very theatrical family – and they’re brought up by their grandmother. Their father has denied them because they were born out of wedlock – he had a one-night-stand with a chambermaid.”

Katy continued: “This woman is not their real grandmother, she’s just somebody who took pity on them – and she’s a nudist as well.”

For anyone who might be wondering – and without wanting to give too much away – Katy won’t actually be naked on stage, though she won’t technically be fully clothed either...

“I’m very skinny and this lady is voluptuous in the extreme,” she said, “and she brings up the girls naked as well, believing in getting the fresh air and sunlight on the skin. There’s nothing sordid about it, it’s a lovely thing really and hopefully very funny.”

Katy notes that most of the actors, including herself, play a number of characters in the play. “It’s full of singing and dancing, and there’s a lot of puppetry in there as well,” she says.

“The show is a celebration of theatre. It’s very tiring, physically, but there are 12 of us and we get on famously – and Emma’s process is very freeing, in the sense that she allows you to craft a part. It’s been a really fun process to be in.”

Katy, who has been touring non-stop for the last five years, added: “It’s a night in the theatre that you won’t forget. We’ll make you laugh, we’ll make you cry and I don’t think you can watch a story like this and not feel something.”

Wise Children is on at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, November 24.

The show starts at 7.45pm, with a matinee on the Thursday and the Saturday at 2.30pm.

Tickets £20-£39 (all ticket prices include a £3 per-ticket booking fee)


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