Romance, music, and chocolate! Emma Rice, artistic director of the first musical to be performed in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe, has created a toothsome rendition of the 2010 Les Émotifs Anonymes (Romantics Anonymous).
Directed by Jean-Pierre Améris, the original French film follows Angélique, an anxiety ridden, anonymous chocolate maker, who joins a support group for the extremely timorous and faints when people look at her for too long. Jean-René, a similarly shy man, is the owner of a bankrupt chocolate factory, who listens to annoying self-help tapes and speaks to his deceased father. Angelique is pushed to find work at the factory and renovates the business with her chocolate making and charm. Despite their timid nature, the protagonists defy several obstacles, and fall hopelessly in love.
The play begins in French, with the narrator and a member of the skillful, multi-tasking cast, in a clichéd costume of a beret and Breton stripes. Having given each audience member a chocolate beforehand, they ask us to indulge on the count of three.
The magic of chocolate is revealed when the language spoken by those on stage changes to English. The transition between the languages gives charm to the show, keeping throughout the play with constant references to untranslatable French words and expressions. Mock accents, changing neon lights and its charismatic ‘Frenchness’ made the performance a tasty treat.
The cast could not have been more perfect. Carly Bawden and Dominic Marsh gave a new perspective to the protagonists with their own portrayals of love and social anxiety. By no means did this duo outshine the rest of the talented cast, who play up to three different characters, but make it easy to forget that they are played by the same people.
The musical aspect of the play was not overbearing, but rather the songs played crucial roles in the development of the plot. The small, yet flawless, orchestra was the ultimate finishing touch to this sweet delight.
The show ends with Angélique and Jean-René strung high up above the stage, as they escape their wedding ceremony, clearly defying his father’s defeatist advice.