Tuesday, October 24, 2017


Shakespeare's Globe at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

A delicious confection for Emma Rice’s swan-song to the Globe: a brand new pocket musical, given in the intimate Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. Only a few token candles, but the musicians’ gallery is well used by Jim Henson’s superb ensemble.
Based on a much-loved French film, Rice’s adaptation has music and lyrics by Michael Kooman and Christopher Dimond. It tells the heart-warming story of two painfully shy people, brought together by chance and chocolate.
Not everything can be translated,” our hero remarks. The play begins in French, but a glorious device – involving a taste of fine dark chocolate for everyone in the audience – switches the dialogue to English. In a range of regional accents, too, though the Allo Allo route proved impossible to resist at times.
The company of nine beautifully inhabit the characters, eccentric, lovable, charming; there is much deft doubling, notably by the superb Philip Cox as the Ghost of Jean-René’s father, the tongue-tied Pierre and a sympathetic concierge, and Gareth Snook as the suave chocolate magnate Mercier, a mumbling recluse and an outrageously operatic Madame Marini.
The chorus combine the functions of the Greek and Broadway varieties – telling the story, and giving us some lovely miniature production numbers. They are variously the employees at the Chocolaterie, and the members of the support/therapy group Les Emotifs Anonymes.
The couple – whose happy ending includes a nod to the Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, last year’s Rice musical in this space – are Carly Bawden, demure and self-effacing as Angélique, and Dominic Marsh as Jean-René, the epitome of sweaty-palmed social paralysis, seeking confidence from a course of self-help cassettes.
As we’ve come to expect, there is much under-scoring, with evocative instrumentation, and some lovely pastiche numbers – Savoir Faire, and, the best for my money, the toe-tapping Don’t Think About Love.
So much to enjoy – the excruciating scene in the restaurant, the squeaky office door, the tiny 2CV, the bonus track in the foyer during the interval. Like Angélique’s chocolates, a melt-in-the-mouth delight, an escapist treat as we wait for winter.

But the Playhouse added little other than warm intimacy – it’s to be hoped that this lovely little piece will be seen elsewhere. It would sit well in any cosy auditorium, even, dare I say, chez Menier, just around the corner ...

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