Romantics Anonymous – Bristol Old Vic REVIEW
Life is like a box of chocolates. There are bitter ones, sweet ones, strange ones that nobody quite understands and totally indulgent ones that make you go back for more.
Emma Rice’s Romantics Anonymous is exactly this. The production welcomes you to taste them all as it brings you into a world of life-defining loneliness, heart-warming love, simple hilarity and a sprinkling of magic.
This production was first premiered a couple of years ago and was met with brilliant reviews. This time around Bristol Old Vic have been gifted with the show as it will be the only UK venue before it gallops off across the pond.
The enchantment begins the second you take your seat. Striped shirts and berets shuffle through the aisles distributing squares of chocolate and giving out instructions in French. As we are told to eat, the language magically turns to English and we are welcomed into this tantalising world.
Based on the French film of the same name, the main characters of Angélique and Jean-Pierre are painfully sweet and smothered in awkwardness. Their endearing manner and endless will-they-won’t-they relationship is frustratingly adorable.
Carly Bawden’s timid, talented and totally socially awkward Angélique is captivating. She is delicate and dainty in every single way. She immediately captures the heart of Marc Antolin’s dorky Jean-Pierre who may not live up to the chocolatier in talent but outdoes her with his major lack of social skills.
The pair tip-toe along a simple plot, desperately eager to hold hands but not entirely sure on how. Along with a fantastic ensemble of charming characters, the cast restore your faith in not only humanity, but also the concept of true love and the nature of the world.
The sugariness is balanced with the bitterness of loneliness from being a Les Émotifs Anonymes. The AA-style meeting filled with people who “feel too much” brought comical characters to the forefront of the show and grounded the euphoria.
Humour was also found sprinkled in the script and in movement, with the choreography having an element of parody and an abundance of witty lines.
The evening is given a little touch of showbiz from neon signs which indicate location and some of the numbers that feel very old-school romantic. The music flows down from the four piece band above the actors’ heads, bringing pace and rhythm to the production.
From the first taste of chocolate to a (literally) uplifting finale, Wise Children serve up engaging, intimate and delicious evening of delight. Every moment is beautifully crafted, every line as warming as the last and every character as charming as can be. Romantics Anonymous is a truly indulgent night that will have you leaving the theatre floating on a cloud, specifically one made of chocolate.