Music: Michael Kooman Lyrics: Christopher Dimond Director: Emma Rice Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe, New Globe Walk, London SE1 (020-7401 9919) Until 6 January 2018 Running time: 2hrs 20mins (including interval)
Emma Rice’s parting gift to Shakespeare’s Globe, which she is leaving after just two seasons, owing to differences with the board, is “no brickbat, but a bouquet”, said Lyn Gardner in The Guardian. Romantics Anonymous is a “multifaceted gem” of a piece, “choc-full of love, generosity and joy”, and it fits the Globe’s indoor Jacobean theatre perfectly. Based on a 2010 Belgian movie, Rice’s “play with songs” charts the delicate love affair between two people crippled by shyness and emotional inarticulacy: reclusive chocolatier Angélique and chocolate factory owner JeanRené. In less sensitive hands, it might all be as “cloying as an overscented violet cream”: and it definitely is “sweet-toothed”. But Rice pulls it off beautifully – a feat “all the more bittersweet, because witty stagecraft combined with an ability to tug at the heartstrings is a reminder of what a great and distinctive talent the Globe is losing” with Rice’s premature exit.
On this evidence, they’re fools to let her go, said Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail. I haven’t been so charmed by a new musical in yonks – from the jazzy score (with echoes of Satie and Poulenc, too) to the delicious way in which the show “celebrates experimentation over stale tradition”. The manner in which Angélique is determined to “break the mould” of Jean-rené’s oldfashioned chocolate firm offers “more than a nod” to Rice’s tussles with the Globe’s board over her breaks with established practices, said Paul Taylor in The Independent. But it is done with “delectably joyous” generosity and not a hint of rancour. What a “gracious, big-hearted swansong” this is.
Among the nimbly multitasking cast, Joanna Riding is outstanding in a trio of exuberant turns, said Susannah Clapp in The Observer. And Dominic Marsh and Carly Bawden are perfect as the lovesick pair. All told, this “sweetly funny, gorgeously tender” piece is an “electric” farewell from Rice, said Dominic Maxwell in The Times. I wouldn’t be surprised if it follows her out the door and pitches camp in the West End.