Sat, 26 Sept 2020
Picture Steve Tanner
in front rooms everywhere, from Tuesday, September 22 to Saturday, September 26
Review by JON LEWIS
Wise Children’s musical, Romantics Anonymous, which debuted at the Globe Theatre, should have toured nationally in the spring. Postponed due to the lockdown, the show has emerged for one week only, broadcast live from a deliberately empty Bristol Old Vic and programmed through the theatres, like the Oxford Playhouse where it would have played.
Thursday’s show was a particularly high-wire act because the internet link technology failed, leading to a delay in the start time. In the introduction, where director Emma Rice introduced the creative team dotted about the stalls, she said that the delay was one of the ‘most terrifying half hours of our lives’.
With the broadcast, I missed the shared experience feeling provided by the live Zoom performances pioneered by Creation Theatre Company during lockdown. Instead I felt a sense of loss that I wasn’t in the theatre to see the cast and be among an audience.
Romantics Anonymous (music, Michael Kooman, lyrics, Christopher Dimond and book, Emma Rice), taken from the French film Les Émotifs Anonymes (2010), written by Jean-Pierre Améris and Phillippe Blasband, is a girl meets boy story where both characters are reluctant to have a love affair due to their shyness caused by mental health problems.
Angelique (Carly Bawden, a delight throughout) is a genius chocolate maker who hides her talent from the world, preferring to work in the shadows. She attends a self-help group where others with mental health conditions share their problems, as in AA meetings. A new job leads to her unlikely friendship with the chocolate factory owner, Jean-Réné (Marc Antolin) who is more inhibited than Angelique. The narrative arc through the production brings the couple closer together, overcoming obstacles and saving the firm from bankruptcy, Kinky Boots-style.
The actors’ passionate embrace at the end is allowed under the pandemic rules because the company, having tested negative, have lived in a performers’ bubble from rehearsals to staging. Among the excellent chorus, who play multiple characters, Me’Sha Bryan and Sandra Marvin are loved by the camera. It’s a feelgood piece of bland escapism and forgettable numbers, but well-acted and playfully amusing.