One of this year’s best fringe shows is performed not in front of the heaving crowds of Assembly Hall or in the big purple cow, but in a crowded room above a pub on the Free Fringe.
Austentatious is the work of six-strong improv team the Milk Monitors, a group of inventive young performers led by last year’s Best Newcomer nominee Caraid Lloyd. The team create an ‘undiscovered’ Jane Austen novel every day based on titles suggested by the audience, and having visited twice, I can assure prospective audience members that the material does indeed change completely for each performance.
Arriving early to avoid the lengthy queue (word has spread quickly about the brilliance of the show, it seems), I discovered that today’s title was to be the somewhat disappointing ‘Ladyboys of Bangkok’ – a theme that promised little other than a one-off bawdy laugh, but from which our intrepid team managed to weave a tale of love, banishment, and, of course, secret cross-dressing. Jane would no doubt have disapproved, but even she might have smothered a smile behind her fan at the antics on stage.
The audience, who had claimed every seat, lined the walls and even sat cross-legged on the floor, roared their approval at each fresh scene, and thoroughly enjoyed every clever moment and inevitable stumble. Even forgotten facts – such as which county the characters resided in – were turned into a neat joke by the quick-witted cast.
The whole thing ended with a dance and a marriage, as every good Jane Austen novel should, and we all filed out, delighted to drop our contribution in the voluntary bucket at the door. My advice would be to remember to bring some cash, as the Milk Monitors certainly earn their keep, and to get there early to avoid being turned away, since you definitely don’t want to miss this Regency treat.
Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel
The Counting House
Until 26 Aug (not 14)
Picture: Idil Sukan
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