EXIT The Globe, enter a new stage for Emma Rice.

Mention her name in Yorkshire and Emma is cherished for her 20 years of innovative, groundbreaking productions with Kneehigh, the Cornish company that packed out the West Yorkshire Playhouse on every visit, from Tristan & Yseult to The Red Shoes and Brief Encounter.

Now she returns, bouncing back from her 2016-2018 artistic directorship of Shakespeare's Globe that fell victim to cold feet above her, by setting up her own company, Wise Children.

Working in tandem with The Old Vic, where Emma's new venture is the company in residence, she has mounted the world premiere of Angela Carter's Wise Children, adapted and directed by Emma.

The production is co-produced by the Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Oxford Playhouse and York Theatre Royal, whose executive director, Tom Bird, worked alongside Emma at Shakespeare's Globe, hence a Rice show will be performed at the Theatre Royal for the first time from March 5 to 16.

"Tom and I worked together at the Globe and had a great time. He's a fantastic producer and a great friend, and we said, 'let's do something together'," Emma recalls.

"A group of theatres have come together to invest as co-producers, which means financial backing for us, and York Theatre Royal has been really instrumental in all the development processes in launching the company."

Wise Children duly opened at The Old Vic, London, last autumn, whereupon Emma said: "It feels great; it's been pretty nerve-wracking; hard work. It's one of those rare moments where you feel happy and it's all come together."

The show has been on its travels since then with Rice's version of Carter's story of Nora and Dora Chance, twin chorus girls born and bred south of the river, celebrating their 70th birthday in Brixton. Across 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 is 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 showbusiness, family, forgiveness and hope. Expect show girls and Shakespeare, sex and scandal, music, mischief and mistaken identity, and butterflies by the thousand, as Rice brings her exuberantly impish vision to Carter’s last novel.

"I was a great fan of Angela Carter in my 20s; she has had a magical impact on people's lives; she's breathtaking in allowing the unimaginable to happen, so we fit together well!" she says.

"When I set up Wise Children, I knew I would open with an adaptation of Wise Children after calling the company that name, presenting Carter's open love letter to theatre in all its aspects, its power and glories."

To create her adaptation, Emma read Carter's novel, then wrote down the story or "what I remember of of it", she says. "I then started working on it with the actors, using their collective imaginations, so that they can pass on their own experiences in theatre."

Emma has a track record for picking unconventional casts. "The actors I'm drawn to over and over again, and the way I tell stories, reflect how I always like to open up to diversity, expanding on my own experiences of humanity, especially in these polarised times, by looking at people who have had different experiences to your own," she reasons.

Against the 2019 backdrop of so much drabness, division, enmity and lost hope, how typically Rice that she should present a work celebrating showbusiness, family, forgiveness and hope. "They represent a lot of my life," she says. "When I talk of family, I mean not only blood family, but how we connect as humans."

Wise Children and The Old Vic present Wise Children, York Theatre Royal, March 5 to 16. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

Charles Hutchinson