Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe, London – until 6 January 2018
This glorious new musical based on the 2010 film Les Emotifs Anonymes is a treat and a delight to watch from beginning to end.
What a scrummy treat this new musical is! With songs that are like a box of chocolate themselves: full of treats and unexpected surprises and a genuinely heartfelt story that celebrates human flaws, this is a show that uplifts the spirits.
This awkward but charming love story follows Angélique and Jean-René – both of whom suffer from anxiety but united in the creation of beautiful chocolates – to see if they can overcome their issues as individuals to ensure that they have a future together. It is a story which delights in flaws and celebrates triumph over adversary, all brought together in a grounded production.
Emma Rice’s production is gentle natured and good fun, while allowing the issues of anxiety and mental health to also take centre stage thanks to some wonderful performances from the cast and a great sense of humour that handles the issues with sensitivity and gentle humour. Everything is done with great affection and care.
But it also has to be said that any show that begins with giving out a free chocolate is a win-win situation in my eyes, and this trick (wait before eating it if you go and see the show as you are told when to open it) immediately charms and wins the audience over – by showing the transformative power of chocolate.
There are so many stand out scenes throughout from the characters Angélique meets at her support group Les Émotifs Anonymes to Jean-René’s reliance on self-help tapes to help him survive the day that you can’t but help but be charmed by all of the characters that you meet throughout. It is lovely to see a love story in which the outside obstacles aren’t the problem but the ones within us that stop us from our own happiness.
For those who are looking for a sophisticated musical, this is perhaps slightly basic in terms of production values – but what the audience does get is a rustic and grounded production that feels entirely believable from beginning to end.
Musically, all of the songs have been beautifully composed by Michael Kooman, with wonderfully wistful and playful lyrics by Christopher Dimond. All of the songs have a lovely French vibe to them that fully engages the audience into the story and the setting.
At the heart of the performances, Carly Bawden as Angelique and Dominic Marsh as Jean-René deliver grounded and heartfelt performances as both characters attempt to overcome their social anxieties and take steps forward into their future. But there are also lovely performances from Joanna Riding as the abrupt but well intentioned Magda, Lauren Samuels as the ever so slightly annoying self-help tape and Philip Cox as Father.
Overall, Romantics Anonymous is a delightful new musical, perfect to cosy up and watch on a Autumnal evening and to give all of us the courage to follow our heart – no matter what obstacles stand in our way!
Romantics Anonymous continues to play at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse until the 6th January 2018. For more information visit: http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/romantics-anonymous