Words: Aria Tsvetanova
Like many other Fringe improvisation shows, Austentatious promises its audience a completely original performance every day. Unlike many similar shows, however, Austentatious delivers on that promise. Its format is simple and endlessly adaptable: the audience suggests variations on Jane Austen titles and the performers pick one to enact.
The particular performance I saw happened to be ‘The Good, the Bennet and the Ugly’ – a Western set in rural Hampshire that featured ladies who wish to be expert gunmen, well-organised stampedes of wild buffaloes and moments of supressed homoeroticism.
The show is definitely not for the Jane Austen purists, as it plays fast and loose with settings, character names and plot points. It is also gleefully and gloriously anachronistic at times. It succeeds as an improv show precisely because it does not let itself be hampered by a specific structure or historical accuracy.
In addition, the actors are quick on their feet when coming up with witty and hilarious comebacks. The show is not without its occasional stumbles and moments of hesitation especially when it comes to actors remembering who is who and who is related to whom. However, the performers are not scared to laugh at themselves or to lampshade the ridiculousness of the scenes they find themselves in. The show is accompanied by a violinist who also adds a great deal of character to each scene with improvised and often recognisable melodies.
A must-see, whether you are a lifelong Jane Austen fan or someone who watched no more than one episode of Bridgerton.
Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel
Underbelly Bristo Square, McEwan Hall