BWW Interview: Marc Antolin On Returning to Emma Rice, ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS & The Wallis
Marc Antolin and Carly Bawden reprise their lead roles as Jean-René and Angélique in the U.S. premiere of playwright/director Emma Rice's ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS beginning at The Wallis March 17, 2020 for a thirteen-day run. Based on the movie Les Émotifs Anonymes, two lonely souls make a sweet connection when Angélique takes a job at Jean-René's chocolate factory.
Marc graciously freed up some of this time to answer a few of my ROMANTIC questions.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Marc!
When ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS premiered at Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in 2017, you played Ludo and Remi. In 2018, you went on to star as Seymour in LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. When you were cast as Jean-René for the 2019 Old Vic production, did you have to start from scratch to learn ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS as a completely brand new play? Or just from Jean-René's perspective?
It was weird, I thought I would know a lot more than I did when it came to revisiting the show as Jean-René. I realized very quickly in rehearsals that Jean-René is a much more isolated character in the story which makes complete sense because of his social anxiety and lack of ability to engage with other people. So yes, I had to look at the story from a whole new perspective and the creative team allowed us to find our own versions of these characters which was really exciting.
Any audience reactions to ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS at the Old Vic stand out for you? (unexpected laughs/cries, comical mishaps)
As with most shows directed by Emma Rice, the audience are such a huge element of the show and are almost another character themselves. In rehearsals you don't have that, so during the first few shows we were constantly responding to what the audiences were reacting to. There were some laughs that were totally unexpected, and then there's the second wave of laughs when something is so unbearably awkward, it just gets funnier. The best thing about this show is when a mishap occurs because the audience are totally in on it, so as a cast we just have to acknowledge it and it sends everyone in hysterics. I never expected such an incredible response of happy crying at the end of the show. It's so euphoric that people would just weep openly. I love that about theatre.
If you were to submit Jean-René for an online dating site, which qualities of his would you list?
I'd say he is passionate about chocolate, enjoys yoga and had a very unique dress sense.
What flaws of Jean-René would you finesse or omit?
He enjoys his own company, and I'd omit the fact that he sweats profusely and avoids physical contact at all costs.
What qualities of a match would Jean-René be looking for?
Kindness, someone who is passionate about their work (even better if it's chocolate) and someone who is able to see the best in someone's flaws.
Does Angélique have any of them?
Absolutely, if Jean-René and Angélique were contestants on Love is Blind, they'd be engaged and married within a few days. They're the perfect match.
ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS isn't your first time performing at The Wallis. You were Marc Chagall in THE FLYING LOVERS OF VITEBSK back in the spring of 2018. What fun/fond memories do you have of your experience at The Wallis then?
I had the most amazing time here. I wasn't sure how audiences would react, and whether it would be very different to a U.K. audience, but it was phenomenal. I love L.A. We did a whole lot of sightseeing, and were very indulgent on the eating and drinking.
You also portrayed Marc Chagall in London under the direction of Emma Rice. What cosmic forces originally brought you and Emma and Kneehigh together?
I'm so grateful for meeting Emma. I'd seen her production of THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG in London, and was blown away. I had to wait eight years until I got an audition through with her, and it was for THE FLYING LOVERS OF VITEBSK. I pinned so much on this audition, but tried to play it cool. As I was leaving my audition, I remember I had a complete fan girl moment. Then she asked if I could dance, at which point I did a really silly dance by the door. I think the silly dance is probably what got me the job.
With so many productions you've done under Emma's helming, do you two have a short-hand in communication in rehearsals?
Yes, absolutely. We have the same sense of humor. Emma just lets me play around and try all the crazy ideas. Then she'll just say, "Too much" (which is most of the time). She'll put me on the right path. Rehearsing a show with Emma just feels like having a nice time with some friends.
Playing again opposite Carly Bawden as Angélique, are you two in sync in knowing what curve balls you might throw each other?
It's incredibly hard not to laugh when playing opposite Carly. Especially because all our stuff with each other is so awkward and still. Rehearsals were a nightmare as I couldn't stop laughing. I was worried I'd never get it together. Also, audiences make us laugh, like if someone sneezes, I know that Carly and I are desperate to break the fourth wall and just say, "Bless you" to that person. She and the whole cast are just brilliant. It's such a joy to perform with them.
You'll be touring ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS next to The Shakespeare Company in Washington, D.C. and then to the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. Have you performed in either city before?
We performed THE FLYING LOVERS OF VITEBSK at the Spoleto Festival in 2018, so I'm excited to get back there and have piña coladas on the beach on our days off. There's a great atmosphere during the festival. I made some friends there last time, so will be awesome to see them again. I've never been to Washington, D.C. and we're playing there for about six weeks in total, so I'm looking forward to hanging out there.
What touring tips you were given have turned out to be the most valuable to you? And who gave them to you?
Touring is always a funny one because you're living out of a suitcase. Marie Kondo taught me to travel with a capsule wardrobe and how to pack it. She's great. I always try and take a candle or room spray so the place you're staying at smells a bit like you and less clinical. I love travelling and have been backpacking a few times. One of my favorite bits is researching a place ahead of getting there, buying all the guide books and blogs about where to eat, what to do, etc. and check Instagram for the hot spots. I learnt a lot from meeting people on my solo travels. I'll always try and chat to locals to get their tips.
Do you have any pre-show rituals or warm-ups?
I'll always do a particular physical and vocal warm-up, and try to drink lots of water. As a company we'll have a group "All for one and one for all" huddle at warm-up which allows us all to check in with each other. And ever since I started performing, at the five-minute call, I will always brush my teeth, have a wee and spray some aftershave before going on stage. That's my OCD ritual.
What do you place on your dressing room tables with to make the new dressing rooms your home?
I wish I could say something really interesting for this, but I'm very minimal, especially on tour, so it's normally just the stuff I need to get ready for the show.
Thank you again, Marc! I look forward to seeing your ROMANTICS adventures.
For ticket availabilities and show schedule through March 29, 2020; log onto www.thewallis.org