Katherine MacAlister talks to Wise Children theatre founder Emma Rice

That Wise Children “is a huge deal” is incontrovertible, not only as the initial offering by the theatre company of the same name, but also as Emma Rice’s first vessel since she departed from The Globe.

As a result Wise Children is her love letter to the theatre, a visual reminder of her commitment, passion and artistic bent, a glaring demonstration of her inimitable and unmistakable style, a guarantee of her ongoing commitment to the stage, and therefore yes ‘a big deal’.

Having opened to rave reviews at The Old Vic, Oxford is first up on the tour, and Wise Children is eagerly awaited by us all, not only as a visual assault of the senses for Angela Carter fans, on whose novel the cabaret style show is based, but also those curious about the controversy surrounding Emma’s Globe departure and this, her defiant comeback.

Eight years in the making, when Emma originally had the idea of staging Wise Children at The National it fell between the tenures of the two directors Nick Hytner and Rufus Norris.

Then, when she took up the post as director of The Globe Theatre, she planned to stage it there, but after leaving under a dark cloud, her vision was put on hold until she set up her own theatre company Wise Children.

A liberating chain of events then. Does she feel more in control now? “Sometimes you just have to seize the moment. I never felt out of control but there is a wonderful sense of freedom that has come with setting up Wise Children.

“Of course I had some very dark hours and had to do some thinking but my relationship with my work is incredibly simple. It’s not academic but emotional.

“It took a while because sometimes when something so dramatic happens, you just think about the work you want to make and how to make your dreams happen. So I made a decision to carry on regardless within 24 hours,” she grins.

“Because whatever happens, you wake up the next morning to a new day and just have to get through it.

“So I’m not celebratory or triumphant but I have got my mojo back.”

Not that Emma’s was short of work: “I had some phenomenal support in the industry and lots of job offers, but actually it was The Arts Council who spurred me into action because they reminded me I only had two months to apply for a grant, or wait for four years. So I sent them my vision of the best theatre company there could ever be, and six months later they said yes.

“That was that. I knew what I was doing then and I will be eternally grateful. But life is long and many other things are possible.

“So I am back in a zone where I am comfortable, not a comfort zone I might add because we are a fresh exciting company. But yes Wise Children is a love letter to the theatre.”

The adaption runs from 1870-1989 and features an actor’s illegitimate twin daughters who become chorus girls, charting the trials and tribulations of theatreland over a century.

“It’s got lots of showbiz and razzmatazz, as well as emotion. It’s really touching,” Emma promises. “I love the music and material.”

And yet, fearsomely hard to stage? “Yes, because it’s got twins in it for a start, and a generation to cover,” Emma accedes.

“So we have actors for each generation - six twins, two dads, played by men and women from different backgrounds. It’s really magic. That was the idea anyway and according to the reviews it has worked.

Opening night must have been a nightmare then? “Yes I was terrified.

“I sat there with a mix of terror , hope and desperation.

“Waiting to see what the reviews said was like voting night on Strictly,” she says.

Was it awful facing her critics? “We need the press, we need people to validate our work , that moment between finishing a piece and asking people what they think.

“But now I’m grinning from ear to ear because it’s all been fantastic and so pivotal.

At least she can stand back and pat herself on the back then? “I could never be that objective because my shows are so personal. They just evolve out of the chaos,” she laughs.

Emma Rice came to prominence with Kneehigh Theatre, famed for her blazing, colourful use of light and sound, the very tools which got her into trouble at The Globe.

So what went wrong? “I loved it at The Globe - the space, the audience and the big stories. And they approached me. Let’s just say it was a surprise tangent in my career.

“But they never criticised my work per se, they just didn’t want it there.”

She announced her resignation within a year of taking up the position, but while many would have been introspective or cautious afterwards, Emma never doubted herself:

“No, I don’t like being sad. It was a two and a half year transition period to get to where I am now but I never felt compelled to compromise.

“That’s why I left. It was not an option. I wasn’t prepared to change the way I work or the way I see things - my aesthetic if you like.

“And now I feel great, relieved and excited. It was the right move. I have a four year plan and lots of things in the pipeline.

“Wise Children has been like having a child, I am very proud of it.

“And to be honest in the past eight years, the political landscape has changed so much with #MeToo that it seems much more relevant today.

“So the show is purposefully very inclusive, with men playing women and visa versa - it’s very modern and hopeful.

“I just hope the work will find its audience. You have to trust in the work,” she says.

“But as a result, by surrounding myself with a wonderful team and making the work I want, I’m sleeping like a baby,” she giggles.

Yes, Emma Rice is certainly having the last laugh.

Wise Children, Oxford Playhouse, Tuesday-Saturday. 01865 305305 or oxfordplayhouse.com