Romantics Anonymous at the Sam Wanamaker PlayhouseCultureTheatre
The beautiful candle-lit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe presents Romantics Anonymous, adapted from the film Les Émotifs Anonymes. It is evident that the play will be unique as the cast members hand out chocolates, already sweetening the immersive experience.
Angélique, (Carly Bowden) a reclusive chocolatier, is preparing some delicacies, singing a charming chanson, exclaiming “un, deux, trois” as she sprinkles gold confetti. We are instantly transported to France, the unique set design by Lez Brotherston creating a warm and intimate fairytale feel; a seemingly ordinary highlight, the invisible doors open and close with creaking sound effects, whilst Malcolm Rippeth’s unique lighting fashions large words that light up in neon with a click of a finger.
At the essence of the story is a tale of romance and love, with the bittersweet helping of some chocolate. Though a gifted chocolatier, Angélique is afraid of everything, yet attempts to make ends meet by making chocolate for a fellow sufferer of social anxiety, Mercier. A renowned culinary judge, Loizeau (Marc Antolin), makes heavy use of the French stereotypes, tasting Angélique’s chocolates, flirtatiously saying, “Well, if you don’t want me to use words, I will employ my tongue in different ways”. Angélique is happy remaining unknown, until the death of Mercier, which changes everything.
Then there is Jean René, a chocolate shop owner who is slowly but surely going into bankruptcy. Also a sufferer of social anxiety, he tries to overcome this by listening to self-help tapes (Lauren Samuels) that funnily, for us, tell him to imagine himself as a mountain and tectonic plates, amongst other humorous orders.
Angélique is offered a role as salesperson, but is terrified at the prospect of talking to people, ironically exclaiming, “I can’t do anything when others are looking at me and expecting something of me”. Instead she uses “Mumbler” (Gareth Snook) a fellow from her support group Les Émotifs Anonymes, to secretly make chocolate, though their colleagues soon realise that Jean René and Angélique are in love. Awkward dates and conversations are had, yet the two bring out a quiet strength in each other, and it is apparent they are besotted and destined to be together.
Though the musical deals with serious issues such as pathological shyness and social anxiety, it does so in a smart, hilarious and kooky way, reflecting its protagonists. Some particularly well-acted scenes involve Gareth Snook’s Mumbler and Marini, which leave the audience in fits of laughter, along with the strong performance of Joanna Riding, who plays Magda and Bridgette amongst others.
The story, lyricism and composition come together perfectly, producing an exceptionally warm-hearted love story that inspires a genuine joie de vivre in anyone who is fortunate enough to step into this world of chocolate and romance.
Photo: Steve Tanner
Romantics Anonymous is at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse from 20th October 2017 until 6th January 2018. For further information or to book visit the Shakespeare’s Globe website here.