MUSICAL REVIEW: Romantics Anonymous ★★★★★

Romantics Anonymous
Bristol Old Vic
Saturday 18th January - Saturday 1st February 2020

There has been much of a hype surrounding Emma Rice's 2017 joyous and poetic take on the 2010 French / Belgium film 'Les Émotifs Anonymes, and rightly so. Romantics Anonymous is a production which will whisk you off your feet within the first minute, lifting from you the magical chocolate willingly given during the pre-show, and swallowing the piece down to enter a world of sweet love; Angelique (Carly Bowden) and Jean-Renè (Marc Antolin) perfectly sum up this adventure in a nutshell... Some Things are Too Good for Words.

It's difficult to know with a production like this where to start; Lex Botherston's neon and simplistic set design graceful jumps from The Chocolate Factory to the Hotel, right on through to La Chasse, which is quite honestly the most captivating and uplifting minute in recent theatrical history, but then there's the chemistry between our two leads which will lift your heart out of your chest upon their first meeting but then crush it during a night in the restaurant where personally you feel the urge to run up from the auditorium and a great big embrace to one of the characters.

The ensemble of this company equally bring together a collective of humour and guidance for us, the audience. Helping us along the way with their various guises, the scenes that take place in Les Émotifs Anonymes, acted like like an AA meeting, give off a warm and fuzzy feeling as each character discusses their emotions, or lack of in some instances. Rice cleverly continues to interweave these anxious misfits throughout, in a way that we also get to learn more about them, welcoming them with open arms from the likes of Mimi (Me'sha Bryan) who can't help but say yes to everything, or Mumbler (Gareth Snook), who as you may guess mumbles through lines but has comedic timing that will certainly bring the house down.

The theme of timid shyness also runs parallel against our two protagonists; Laura Jane Matthewson provides the stature and voice of the Self-help Tape that Jean-Renè often resorts to in nervous situations, with daily tips that resorts into a touching embrace of sweetness pouring from our hearts. It's the beauty of this presence that truly gives Romantics Anonymous a true place in musical theatre and quite frankly excels in most ways; the fact that there are no really brash characters to turn your smile upside down gives the feeling of heart and understanding for all that are represented on stage. I have never had an experience in a theatre before where I have smiled so much with excessive audible laughter, to then start welling up as the production reaches its climax, quite like this spectacle.

Overall, Romantics Anonymous is undoubtedly one of the most sweetest, poignant and truly moving productions that I think we'll ever see in our lifetime. The sense of familiarity and kindness given to this process from an extraordinary team pays off with slick precision and effortless flowing lyrics from Christopher Dimond. Simply put... Romantics Anonymous is Too Good for Words.


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