📍 Arts Theatre, 6-7 Great Newport Street, London, WC2H 7JB
🗓 Monday 28th May 2023
Last night I was invited to see the hilariously chaotic Austentatious at London's Arts Theatre. The cast is full of fantastic comedic actors who have a real knack for improvisation, which is exactly the two main traits needed for this show!
The entire performance is improvised with each actor assuming different roles as and when needed. There is an element of pantomime to the production and you always feel as if the company are going to burst into laughter, which makes it even more entertaining for the audience.
The show opens with the audience being solicited for ideas for titles of lost novels from Jane Austen. One was chosen and that was the story that was acted out, so last night, for the first and last time, the audience was treated to a performance of 'Burlesque in Bath'!
Usually a review would be filled with spoilers, but as this show is completely different every time, there's no risk of spoiling any surprises!
We meet two sisters who are lovingly preparing costumes for their brothers burlesque show. One is on feathers duty and the other is sorting nipple tassels, all while their brother awaits delivery of his gold butt paint!
What followed was a farcical story which included nuns, ducks, a theatre critic, a vicar, a trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Edward Scissorhands that only gets sillier and more enjoyable as it goes on! There were laugh out load moments from start to finish and the innuendo and slapstick kept the audience wanting more.
The whole silliness is magnified by the fact that the characters are very Austen-esque and they very much live in that world. It is essentially a parody of her works, born out of love. The company obviously competently understand the structure of an Austen novel and have an affinity with her work. They lovingly mock aspects of her work such as the cliched names "Why are we all called Edward?"
There were some brilliant moments which stood out for me, such as when two characters spoke over another conversation and "Oh, we'll shut up" was exclaimed! Also an unexpected plot twist saw one duck say to another "You don't fancy a fuck do you?".
Each scene individually received a rambunctious applause, and there seemed to be a controlled way to let the lighting guy know when each scene had finished, although there was one moment when the stage was plunged into darkness before the actors had finished!
There was a pianist side of stage who played appropriate background music throughout and whose timing was just as good as that of the actors. There was a scene where the sisters decided to practice a piano duet which was wondrously joyous.
Austentatious is currently playing every Monday at the Arts Theatre, with dates later in the year at Regents Park Open Air Theatre and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
For more information on the show and for tickets head to www.austentatiousimpro.com where you can also find cast bios.
I'll definitely be trying to arrange a return visit as I'd be interested to see what the company would do with an entirely different lost novel title! Also, it would seem that the cast themselves differ with each performance and a different cast would create a whole new dynamic which I'd be intrigued to see.
All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.
My ticket for this performance was gifted by the Austentatious team who invited me to review the production. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in my star rating or the content of my review.
CAST (at this performance):
Graham Dickson; Lauren Shearing; Charlotte Gittins; Charlie Kemp; Lee Simpson
RUNNING TIME (approx):
1 hour 45 minutes, including interval