Love. Betrayal. Lust. A closet full of shelves. This performance of Austentatious, as scandalous as the classic novels, is the perfect marriage of Jane Austen and improvised theatre.
Austentacious is a pop-up book of creative genius.
Ushered into Leicester Square Theatre, we are transported from the hustle and bustle of central London into the opaque manor homes of the late 18th Century. We are introduced to our host for the evening, the outstandingly talented and quick witted Lauren Shearing (Showstopper! The Improvised Musical) who introduces the premise of how the evening is to unfold. We, the audience, is told that history as we know it was wrong: Jane Austen did not write six novels but, in fact, she wrote several hundred and encouraged us to name some others. And how could we have forgotten such classics as “A Tale of Two Bingleys”? Perhaps this was overlooked by the roaring sales of Pride and Prejudice. Alas, we reached everyone’s favourite Austen novel from a lovely audience member sitting at the front: “Shelves in the Closet”. And before you know it - we were transported into the very same novel.
Throughout the play we are introduced to a plethora of characters. Within this stellar cast we have the talents of: Amy Cook-Hodgson, Charlotte Gittins, Daniel Nils Roberts, Charlie Kemp and Rachel Parris. It is incredible to watch an ensemble work together with such ebb and flow, each allowing one another to share the stage in harmony without hogging the limelight. The exemplary comedic timing from all participants was a delight to watch; I really don’t think I have laughed so hard in such a long time! When I say laughing, I mean absolute stitches with a proper ugly face and tears streaming. Austentacious is an absolute grand slam of a show that reminds us of what we really need right now: fun, excitement and an opportunity to let go. It is incredible to think that everything is improvised and anything could go wrong at any moment.
A special mention must go out to to Alex Judd; the musician of the evening who not only created the atmosphere for each scene but also improvised musical reactions to the shenanigans onstage. With only a violin, Judd captivated the audience, roping us into the world of Austen by adding musical suspense and further rousing our enthusiasm. Judd continues to push the narrative of the play with his own unique spin by allowing his own character to spring out through music.
Austentatious is volatile in the best possible way. Anything can happen at the drop of a hat yet the cast continue to use their energy and expertise to push the story in the right direction, wrapping the conclusion in a frilly improvised bow. Austentacious is a pop-up book of creative genius that continues to drag you into the story - even if the story is utterly ridiculous. The passion and commitment each actor has on stage is a true testament to their brilliance.
Austentacious is running on selected dates until June 2022 whilst also riding off on tour throughout May.