Previously running at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Emma Rice returns to direct this musical with her theatre company Wise Children. The play is loosely based on a french film, yet it is given a new life on stage through Rice’s book adaptation combined with Kooman and Dimond’s music and lyrics.
Rice transports you to her world via the taste of chocolate, which you are given by a cast member just before the show; an idea that to me encapsulates the director’s trademark theatrical excitement.
Unlike a lot of her previous work as a director, this has the feel of a “musical” rather than a “play with music.” Her familiar creative team create a stunning set, and there are brilliant stage images ranging from choreography to direction throughout the show, but most vividly in the second act. The lighting was effective throughout, particularly on the back set where neon signs indicated the location we were being transported to. This is thanks to Lez Brotherston’s original design, which has been extended and developed by some of the new team members.
The cast of the show, spearheaded by Carly Bawden and Marc Antolin, are strong, and gain strength going into the second act. It is perhaps the multi-roling that brings the charm to the show, with the other actors playing multiple characters throughout. This allows the ensemble to appear as a unit, working as one throughout the play. I thought that Sandra Marvin was particularly strong and her performance of the song “Quelle Surprise”, opening the second act, perhaps gave the show the lift it was looking for. From here onwards the cast kept a high level of energy and really invited the audience to be a part of their world.
Being a fan of Emma Rice’s work I entered the theatre looking for a familiar style. By the interval I was left wanting something more, yet was aware that the majority of the audience around me loved what they had been given up to this point. However, I think we all absolutely loved what the second act then had to offer, with Rice’s trademark joyous atmosphere released.
Overall this musical was a nice love story which took the audience through multiple emotions from joy to sorrow. A show which is truly put on for theatre’s sake and made solely for the audience’s enjoyment is rare to come by, but I think Wise Children achieved it in this instance. I hope that it will return to UK shores in the near future, following its tour of the United States.
Written and Directed by: Emma Rice
Original Screenwriters: Jean-Pierre Améris, Philippe Blasband
Musical Supervisor: Nigel Lilley
Choreographer: Etta Murfitt
Composer: Michael Kooman
Lyricist: Christopher Dimond
Produced by: Wise Children
Booking Link: https://bristololdvic.org.uk/whats-on/romantics-anonymous
Booking Until: 1 February 2020 (prior to a US Tour)