An improvised Jane Austen novel was always going to be a lot of fun, and
The troupe excelled at bringing to life Austen’s malicious gossips and socially-awkward gentlemen and it’s clear that this is comedy of a very high calibre.
Each audience member was asked to suggest a title for a long-lost Jane Austen novel, and today the forgotten classic Persuasion: How a Man Should Learn to Ride was performed. Austen purists may be disappointed by the shortage of in-jokes about the novels, but all of the key Austen elements were there: a misunderstood but ultimately good-natured gentleman; a pair of inexplicably horrible society ladies; fortunes won and lost and a shoehorned marriage to round things off.
The plot was a little more convoluted than your average improvised play – so much so that some of the cast occasionally forgot what was going on. This was all part of the fun though; many of the best moments in the show came when the cast mocked each other for getting things wrong. Joseph Morpurgo and Graham Dixon’s vague miming during the horse-riding aspect of the plot resulted in steeds of alarming proportions, which turned into one of the most amusing running jokes.
The cast did well at keeping various gags going throughout, and Amy Cooke-Hodgson was particularly adept at making quips which formed the backbone of the comedy. On the other hand, some of the less funny jokes were repeated until they felt a bit laboured. On the whole though, the gags were noticeably funnier than your average improv show: the opening scene in which Morpurgo laments having bet his ‘very large house’ on a half-dead horse to impress a lady and Dixon’s Lord Shoreditch being pressured into improvising a rap were particularly inspired.
The chemistry and the banter between the quick-witted cast make this a hilarious costume drama that’s considerably more polished than your average improvised comedy; there’s even a violinist to set the mood for each scene! The troupe excelled at bringing to life Austen’s malicious gossips and socially-awkward gentlemen and it’s clear that this is comedy of a very high calibre.