Romantics Anonymous review – Emma Rice’s bittersweet farewell

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London
Rice bows out as artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe in bravura style with a touching musical about two painfully shy chocolate-makers

Emma Rice ends at the Globe as she began. Saucily. With a mix of old and new, borrowed and blue. Romantics Anonymous, her final production as artistic director may be based on a 2010 French-Belgian movie, but it is entirely new as a stage work, and is the first musical to be put on in the ever-glowing Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

The story of a “chocolate savant”, an inspired confectioner who sets out to “break the mould” of a traditional chocolate firm, owned by the man she loves, may come on beaming and winsome, but it contains more than a nod to Rice’s tussles while breaking with established practices at the Globe. It is full of larks: handlebar moustaches twitch beneath berets; neon signs light up at the click of fingers; lovers are hoisted high above the stage, gleefully somersaulting, in a tribute to one of Rice’s earlier romantic shows, The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk. Yet, like the fairytales that Rice loves, Romantics Anonymous is veined with sadness and difficulties. After all, as the heroine points out, chocolate is not simply sweet; what makes it so special is the ripple of bitterness beneath the surface.

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