Romantics Anonymous tells the story of a talented chocolate maker and her anxieties with the outside world, especially when meeting the owner of a local chocolate factory who is also dealing with the panic of social situations. Immediately, both protagonists are relatable; this aspect of mental health is often overlooked in the media, but the new musical displays it with a comedic, yet realistic approach.

The Romantics Anonymous love story progresses as Jean-René (Dominic Marsh) and Angélique (Carly Bawden) learn to share their passion for chocolate in order to save Jean-René’s failing business. Having such impactful individual stories helps the audience root for the two main characters and results in an emotional rollercoaster of a production.

Dominic Marsh & Carly Bawden

Based on the 2010 French-Belgian film, ‘Les Émotifs Anonymes’, Romantics Anonymous is a flowing stream, with some European flair that appeals to the musical’s creators. The music (Michael Kooman) and lyrics (Christopher Dimond) retain the elegant feel of modern-day France and move the story in different directions and locations. The score adds to the individual personalities of each character without hindering the overall arch of this tale.

It is clear that this show has a major French influence; the score is light and doesn’t feel like your typical musical theatre soundtrack, which is a surprising breath of fresh air. Emma Rice’s direction brings two individual people from not so different worlds together, who help each other in both a professional and personal manner. It is these moments where Romantics Anonymous becomes particularly heart-warming.

Carly Bawden

The story is guided along by a fantastic ensemble cast, each of whom takes on varying roles and personalities – from eccentric members of a support group, to diverse workers in the chocolate factory. Each individual brings charisma to every role and makes the audience feel for the character, as they play their part in keeping the plot moving and in adding more hurdles to ensure that the audience remain invested. A particular highlight is Magda (Joanna Riding), who seems to be the backbone of Jean-René’s chocolate factory and keeps everybody in line with excellent comedic timing.

This remarkable new musical is playing at the intimate setting of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, the perfect location to showcase the talented partnership of Rice, Kooman and Dimond. The set fully immerses the audience within the culture of France, using the intimate location to its advantage without impeding production quality. Rice’s staging is very simplistic, yet ultimately capitalises on the space and moves the characters throughout various bustling country scenes.

Something very special is created on the Romantics Anonymous stage, with a few surprises along the way. The beautiful story that unfolds between Jean-René and Angélique needs to be experienced first-hand to see just how one common interest can spark such affection, especially with the obstacles that our two protagonists face on a daily basis.

 

★★★★★

To read more about Romantics Anonymous, which plays the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse until 6 January 2018, follow the theatre on Twitter (@The_Globe) or visit the venue website – www.shakespearesglobe.com