An Austen themed improv show? My, my, how delightfully silly.
And indeed it is. Austentatious is a rather successful improvised show, delighting audiences across the UK, and now it’s back in London, bringing something a bit more light-hearted to the home of The Woman in Black; The Fortune Theatre.
As the audience files in, two singers in period dress sing classical songs in acapella, and they are shortly followed by a violinist. This part drags on a little, as they continue to interchange for a good thirty minutes – ten would probably suffice.
However, once the show begins, the audience are invited to shout out title ideas for the cast to run with. This time, they finally settle on ‘Made in Chelsea, Strumpet in Brixton.’
We are introduced to sisters, Winifred (Amy Cook-Hodgson) and Phililada-da (Rachel Parris) – a running joke, as each character fails to remember her name. They are welcomed into society by their widowed uncle in Chelsea. The relationship between their uncle (Joseph Morpurgo) and servant, Meredith (Cariad Lloyd) is possibly the funniest – as Meredith constantly makes passes at the widow, making crude jokes and blending oysters into his tea to flare up his sex drive. Lloyd’s comic timing is excellent throughout as she multi-roles a range of characters.
As the risk with a lot of improvised plays, the piece lags slightly in the middle, and feels a little aimless at times. Nevertheless, there are moments of pure hilarity, as Andrew Hunter Murray plays a failed actor, acting out Made in Chelsea-esque stage plays, then multi-roles as sleazy Mr Channel Four. We’re thrown into modern contexts as the characters enjoy cronuts, Brixton’s finest sourdough pizza and Gregg’s vegan sausage rolls, while also drawing #MeToo into the picture.
The content only becomes stronger and more concise in the second half, once the actors get into the swing of it and the audience drink more wine. Considering the whole piece is improvised, the story miraculously ties together, with talented violinist helping set the scene throughout.
Austentatious proves to be funny, topical and well-intentioned with its strong female roles and Me Too undertones. If it’s a night of light, fun entertainment you’re after, then it certainly delivers!
Images: The Other Richard