Interview with Romantics Anonymous Artistic Director Emma Rice


Artistic Director Emma Rice has had a prolific career in theatre, as an actor/director with Kneehigh and further directing with the ENO and Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe (2016-2018). Her new theatre company, Wise Children, have produced the musical Romantics Anonymous, based on the film Les Émotifs Anonymes by Jean-Pierre Améris and Philippe Blasband.

Romantics Anonymous is touring as a digital production and is presented in partnership with Brighton Dome on Friday 25 September. Emma explains more about how and why they decided to bring the live theatre experience into people’s homes.

After the disappointment of the Romantics Anonymous tour being cancelled how does it feel to share the work again, in an albeit slightly different way than expected?

It’s hard to describe how exciting this is. It feels like we are navigating an untrodden path - but one that leads to the familiar things we love and miss. It is a serious and daunting task, and there is lots of planning to be done (the safety of the company is our utmost priority), but when I imagine being in the theatre again, singing, dancing, laughing and even touching, my heart skips a beat! 

The production is based on Les Emotifs Anonymes, what originally inspired you to adapt it?

Oh! This wonderful film had me from the start! It is such a tender and intoxicating love story, filled with anxieties and worries that all of us can relate to. It is quirky and surprising, but it is also refreshingly modern. It suggests that anything is possible if you bend the rules, dare to take a risk and allow yourself to love. It is romantic indeed, and just the feelgood story we all need in these difficult times.

How do you think a digital tour will help regional theatres at the moment?Theatres miss audiences, actors, the box office they bring and the buzz they provide. This live broadcast can’t answer all the problems theatres are facing, but it does give some wonderful answers and more than a little hope. Romantics Anonymous will create the buzz of a live experience, because it is one! The actors are singing and dancing as you watch – if something goes wrong, we will all see it and enjoy it! There will be no airbrushing or editing, it is truly live and the audience will feel that energy and excitement. They will also feel like it is a shared experience; that others are watching at the same time – just like going to the theatre used to be. Also, if people book through their local theatre, a proportion of the ticket price goes to the venue, giving them much needed financial support. 

How I wish we could actually be in Brighton Dome. I can taste the fish and chips as I imagine it and can breathe in the sea air. Always a pleasure to visit, no tour would be complete without Brighton!

What do you hope audiences will take from the production?

I hope the audience will take away a big helping of joy and a sense of community that is rare in these isolated times. I hope they will be left humming the tunes, with a skip in their step and a heart that is full to the brim with love, kindness and hope – is that too much to ask?

A lot of the cast are reprising their roles, is it good to have the company back together again?

Hell yes! It’s the best thing about this crazy project! We will all be back together again, doing what we love and sharing it with the world. It is also one of the most talented casts I have ever had the privilege of working with, so the audience is in for a real treat!

Finally, how has lockdown been for you?

Like so many, lockdown has been tough for me. Theatre work vanished overnight, and we have all had to mourn the loss of many things. I also lost my beloved Dad during Lockdown, so have been mourning the loss of him greatly. Sad times, but I find myself grateful for many things, not least this chance to bring some light and joy back to the world, the people around me and, indeed, to my own heart.

Reprising their roles, the full cast is Marc Antolin (Jean-René), Carly Bawden (Angélique), Me’sha Bryan (Suzanne/Mimi), Harry Hepple (Ludo/Remi), Laura Jane Matthewson (Young Woman), Sandra Marvin (Magda/Brigitte/Dr Maxim), Philip Cox (Father/Pierre/Receptionist), Gareth Snook (Mercier/Mumbler/Marini) and Omari Douglas (Salesman/Fred). Michael Kooman (music) and Christopher Dimond (lyrics).

Book tickets for Romantics Anonymous livestream here