Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel
As its name suggests, this quirky theatre production, ‘Austentatious’ is based on the much-loved novelist Jane Austen and it is certainly hilarious with some of the best comic actors giving ‘ostentatious’ a new meaning.
I was accompanied by ‘the teenager’, a drama scholar, to see a Sunday evening showing at the Savoy Theatre in March. The Savoy is a beautiful and intimate feeling theatre set next to the Savoy on The Strand. After a successful run at the Piccadilly Theatre, it has been extended at the Savoy Theatre until July. However, there is only one showing a month: 15th April, 20th May, 17th June and 8th July – so don’t delay in booking your tickets.
And obviously, there is no programme to buy as no one knows what’s going to happen, so we kicked the night off in style with a ‘Mr Darcy’ gin cocktail – well how could I refuse! While we pondered what the show would be like….
Austentatious is an entirely improvised comedy play, starring a cast of the country’s sharpest comic performers, who conjure up a ‘lost’ Jane Austen novel based on nothing more than a title suggested by the audience. Whether you’ve read all of Austen’s works or none of them, this hilarious show will be a totally new experience.
The cast performs in full Regency costume, with live musical accompaniment to the side of the stage, no two shows are ever the same.
Previous ’lost‘ masterpieces include The Sixth Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Shark and Double 0 Darcy. Expect witty heroines, dashing gents and preposterous plots. On the night we attended the title that was finally decided upon after some ‘interesting’ offerings from the audience was “Darcy in the Dark”.
The show starts with Cariad Lloyd ( in pink dress) introducing the works of Jane Austen and a little of what to expect for the evening, reminding us how the entire performance was improvised within a simplistic Regency set with merely two chairs and a table.
Each half was around forty-five minutes long and consisted of about half-a-dozen short scenes. We were completely amazed by the actors’ ability to continue the improvisation even when the scenes became laugh-out-loud funny. Despite being given such a simple title they were able to conjure an extremely complex plot instantaneously with so many different love triangles and plot twists that unravelled seamlessly.
During the first act, each actor was given at least a scene to fully establish their character before we were introduced to their uses of multi-role which was explained by the use of cleverly chosen hats and accessories to define each character. The show opened with Mr Darcy at his family’s optician being told he was practically blind, then enter two sisters one of which is also blind. Throughout the first act, we saw the love that blossomed between these two visually-impaired characters and the comical moments that came as a result such as a hilarious attempt at a kiss.
The second act tied up all of the loose ends created in act one as Mr Darcy and his love were finally united despite their mutual disability and the sub-plot of a family struggling to pay their debts came to a hysterical conclusion as they resolved to dig up the small fortune they buried with their dead mother. The entire performance was incredibly witty and the references to current affairs mixed with the Regency-style dialogue was extremely entertaining.
“We are honoured to receive such a flattering invitation to extend our West End residency! Nothing could be more pleasing to us than a small, intimate gathering of friends, observed by 1200 more, slightly more distant (but no less dear) friends.”
For more info check their website
Last summer, Austentatious recorded a one-off special for BBC Radio 4 and returned to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for their sixth consecutive sell-out run. Since their first show in a London pub in 2011, they have travelled the UK, selling out five national tours and performing over 400 ‘lost’ novels. They won the Chortle Award for ‘Best Character, Improv or Sketch Group’ in 2014 and were named ‘Best Improvised Comedy Act’ in 2016’s What’s On London Comedy Awards.
2017 marked 200 years of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published a few months after Jane Austen’s death.
15th April 2018 7.00pm
20th May 2018 7.00pm
17th June 2018 7.00pm
8th July 2018 7.00pm
Savoy Theatre, Savoy Court, Strand, London WC2R 0ET
Bookings through ATG using this link
Telephone Booking: 0844 871 7630
AUSTENTATIOUS is performed by
Andrew Hunter Murray
Daniel Nils Roberts
We were guests of the production company. Its a great fun night out, not high brow theatre yet still skilfully acted and well worth seeing. Before you go think of some interesting titles of novels that you can test the cast with.