Jane Austen novels and improv shows – two things that have been done to death in various forms of media for years. But Austentatious, in its McEwan Hall venue, breathes new life into both the literature and the art form, and always with Austenian flair.
Rachel Parris begins the show as a Jane Austen expert, picking the novel that the troupe are to act for the audience. A few suggestions are taken from the viewers (I personally loved the suggestion of ‘Sense and Sensibility-nage Mutant Ninja Turtles); after a few contributions, ‘Periods and the Patriarchy’ became the world we were to become enwrapped in.
The cast- in this particular show, made up of Parris, Amy Cooke-Hodgson, Charlotte Gittins, Daniel Nils Roberts, Graham Dickson, and Joseph Morpurgo- carry the show incredibly well. Cooke-Hodgson is brilliant as dejected first daughter Mangelica (to Gittins’ Angelica), dodging insults from her strict father (Morpurgo). Dickson becomes the goofy and enamoured love interest to leading lady Gittens, David, traipsing after her with many mentions of canoes.
The show may start slowly as the cast moves to work out the direction that the show will go- but once they have it down, it’s laughs abound. Even the pauses are funny as you are never sure what’s going to come next. At one point I found myself crying laughing, and I wasn’t alone- the audience responded extremely well to every quick quip. The cast riff off of each other excellently, and important components of the show are not forgotten along the way- our show featured many mentions of the oppressive standards under which women in Austen’s time were made to live under, and there’s even a menstruation seminar in a church.
Lovers of 19th-century literature and quick comedy alike will be happier than a single woman at a ball full of militia at Austentatious. It is the social engagement of the Fringe one can simply not miss.