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This show closed on November 10, 2018

About Wise Children

It’s 23rd April, Shakespeare’s birthday.

In Brixton, Nora and Dora Chance – twin chorus girls born and bred south of the river – are celebrating their 70th birthday. Over 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’s still alive. And if, in truth, Melchior is their real father after all…

A big, bawdy tangle of theatrical joy and heartbreak, Wise Children is a celebration of show business, family, forgiveness and hope. Expect show girls and Shakespeare, sex and scandal, music, mischief and mistaken identity – and butterflies by the thousand.

Emma Rice (Romantics Anonymous, Tristan & Yseult, The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk and Brief Encounter) brings her unique, exuberantly impish vision to Angela Carter’s great last novel, Wise Children, launching her new theatre company of the same name and its London residency at The Old Vic.

An Old Vic and Wise Children production.

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Emma Rice has craftily adapted Angela Carter’s last novel in this joyful, yet bizarre and twisted, exploration of class, paternity, and show business.

The story focuses on twin sisters in their 70s, reflecting on the life of their ancestors and recollecting stories of growing up as show girls in South London. Nora and Dora’s mother died not long after giving birth to them, and with their father, Melchior Hazard, abandoning them to pursue his acting career, it was left to their guardian, Grandma Chance, to raise them. As young children, their uncle shows up one day offering financial support on behalf of their estranged father. However, it’s not until a pantomime performance years later that the girls encounter their father for the first time. It becomes clear that Melchior has moved on in life. He is married to a beautiful wife, and they have twins of their own. He is not interested in his illegitimate children. Yet as Nora and Dora get older, their love of performing leads them to accepting a job in one of their father’s plays. Will he ever see them as more than showgirls and accept them as his daughters?

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What To Watch For

  • From “Hamlet” to “Othello,” “The Tempest” to “King Lear,” look out for the many Shakespeare references throughout the show.
  • Set and costume designer Vicki Mortimer has created a beautiful adaptable set that centres around a revolving caravan. Watch as it unfolds into multiple houses, an ice cream van, a theatre, and even turns into the rooftops of London.
  • Two years on from her departure as artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe, Emma Rice has launched her new theatre company, which shares the same name as the debut production in the company’s residency at The Old Vic.

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Run Time

2hrs 10min (incl. interval)

Start Date

End Date


Recommend age: 14+ (some sexual content, swearing and adult themes throughout)

Melancholy yet joyous and inventive
Evening Standard
An explosion of theatrical glee
The Times

Old Vic

The Cut, London, SE1 8NB

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