Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel

Comedy improvisation troupe Austentatious have been reducing erstwhile sensible audiences to fits of hysteria all over the UK since 2012. A consistently huge hit at Edinburgh they have toured extensively and landed several slots in big London venues, not least this year’s run at Udderbelly Festival.

anybody who knows Austentatious can verify that they are absolutely fantastic, a first-rate band of seasoned performers at the top of their game.

At first glance a bunch of 20-30 somethings in period costume doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence. There is a lot of bad improv out there and the fear of overdone accents, stale movement and lack lustre dialogue prevails.

However anybody who knows Austentatious can verify that they are absolutely fantastic, a first-rate band of seasoned performers at the top of their game. Actors Graham Dickinson, Cariad Lloyd, Amy Cooke-Hodgson, Charlotte Gittins, Rachel Parris & Joseph Morpurgo perform on rotation supported by a creative team who seem to pre-empt their every move. Music, sound and lighting changes work in perfect synergy with the twists and tales of stories that are as unknown to the actors as to the audience.

As they take their seats each person is given a slip of paper to write down a title of a hitherto unknown Jane Austen novel for the cast to perform. Ideas are then pulled out of a top hat (naturally) and although only one is used several titles are read out to the audience. This hook ensures that, like all the best improv, it’s completely different every time you go.

What sets Austentatious apart is consummate expertise, intelligent cheeky humour and restraint. They clearly know each other and their craft extremely well. They religiously obey the no.1 rule of improv ‘always say yes’ and crucially remember to hold back as well as take the risk to jump in at the opportune moment. This combined with a knack for spotting gags before the audience do and total commitment to their characters (even a bong smoking young aristocrat on the night we visited) make sure they keep the audience shrieking, whooping and thigh-slapping from start to finish.

They know when to slow the action down as well and get in the odd serious point. On our visit the Brexit theme of the show was inevitable on the eve of the referendum but pertinently handled with a thought-provoking sense of conviction behind the humour. 

Reviews by Lettie Mckie

Udderbelly Festival

Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel

★★★★★
The Vaults

Skin A Cat

★★★★★
The Vaults

Underground

★★★★
Orange Tree Theatre

The Rolling Stone

★★★★★
Charing Cross Theatre

Piaf

★★
London Theatre Workshop

Through The Mill

★★★★

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Austentatious returns to the Southbank in resplendent fashion! In each show, the all-star cast will improvise a brand new Jane Austen work before your eyes, based only on audience suggestions. Previous ‘lost’ masterpieces have included Sixth Sense & Sensibility, Double 0 Darcy and Mansfield Shark. Prepare to get your bonnet in a twist: this hilarious show is not to be missed! (Swooning guaranteed).

Edinburgh Fringe sell-outs 2013, 2014, 2015, Chortle award winners 2014, as heard on BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 4 Extra.

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