Romantics Anonymous, Wise Children at Bristol Old Vic

THE big selling point of Romantics Anonymous (both the French film and this wonderful musical show) is “love and chocolate, what’s not to like?”

But that would be to overlook the many extra delights that Emma Rice has included in her inspired production, which sold out the Sam Wanamaker Theatre at Shakespeare’s Globe as she made her swan song from the fraught appointment.

It is the story of two shy and clumsy people, she a brilliant but reclusive chocolatier and he the owner of a failing chocolate factory. Their meeting should be their saving grace, but first they (and the long-suffering and loyal staff) have to circumnavigate all their minor insecurities and major fears.

There have been other recent stage adaptations of successful French films, but this one literally soars above the rest, taking the already charming story and giving it the Kneehigh (where Emma Rice ruled for years) and now Wise Children treatment.

Marc Antolin returns to the Old Vic (after his memorable turn in Flying Lovers of Vitebsk) as the gauche Jean-Rene, imprisoned by the ghost of his dead father, a man who would not countenance change of any sort. Carly Bawden, another Kneehigh regular, captures the driven perfectionism and inner torments of Angelique the chocolate savant.

The rest of the nine-strong cast play waiters, chocolatiers, buyers, those in need of self help and all the rest, with a joie de vivre and energy that thrilled the audience, and, with the backing of the onstage band, told their poignant story with all the surprises and fun that we already expect from Wise Children productions.

It’s a show full of ingenuity and brilliance, well deserving its second life after the Globe and on its way to a world tour. See it in Bristol if you can, where it is performed until 1st February.


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