It is a truth that should be universally acknowledged; you do not need to possess an extensive understanding of the books of Jane Austen to fully enjoy
It is clear that the cast of Austentatious know their craft and the audience feel very comfortable in their expert hands.
The cast of seven (which including a pianist who brilliantly underscores the action on stage) act out a play in the style of a Jane Austen novel. It is slick, it is witty and it is a pure joy to watch.
A female ‘scholar’ glides gracefully onto the stage to begin the proceedings, imparting her vast knowledge on the progressive writer and the many novels she produced such as “Pride and Prejudice... and the other ones.” This gets a hearty laugh. Her main task at this juncture is to find a suggestion from an audience member that the cast can run with. The winning suggestion becomes the title and subject of the literary masterpiece they will then act out over the next hour. The shouted out title on this day was “Periods and the Patriarchy”. They pulled it off perfectly.
The humour comes from subverting the polite rules of 18th-century society Austen's work is situated in and bringing it in to the modern age, whilst still delivering it all in period style. Sometimes, actors corpsed when one of the other cast members made a particularly amusing joke – this only added to the humour and didn't detract from the pace.
They don’t even resort to randomly reeling off the most famous Jane Austen novel quotes, which could alienate some of their audience. The humour comes from the improvisational moments, and every moment is in a state of constant manipulation by the cast and by the unique choices they make. It is clear that the cast of Austentatious know their craft and the audience feel very comfortable in their expert hands. While one set of actors is on stage, the others wait in the wings, ready to use the improvised information to their own advantage when it’s their turn in the limelight.
There must be some repeated situations or rules that the cast follow, but these are seamless and undetectable. Who is deciding scene changes? Who cares? It works. It’s the ability of the actors on stage to be able to take an idea, keep returning to this idea and deliver a satisfactory conclusion that makes Austentatious so marvellous to watch.
Austentatious is intelligent and entertaining theatre, which is different every time it is performed. No wonder people keep coming back for more. It makes you want to read Pride and Prejudice. Or one of the other ones.