Multiple character roles, lighting quick costume changes and a flair for improvising early 19th century dialogue comprise the extraordinary feat that is Austentatious. Returning for its third year to Edinburgh Fringe and packed out audiences, the novelty of the show has clearly not worn thin. Deservedly so as the troupe challenge themselves to stage a previously unheard, or rehearsed, version of one of Jane Austen’s ‘lost novels’. Taking their inspiration from audience suggestions, drawn at random out of a hat, previous works have included ‘Man Filled Park’ and ‘Strictly Come Darcy’. ‘Sieves and Syphillis’ was to be our tale, with the abundance of puns and innuendoes such a title can inspire.
It’s a real joy to see an ensemble at the top of their game, and despite working on the show fairly continuously since its debut in 2012, they all seem to still like each other.
There is an ease of play between them alongside their slick attention to detail; any verbal stumbles from one of the performers becomes hilarious fodder for their cast mates and barely concealed corpsing is a bonus. There’s also plenty of delightful contemporary references and Fringe in-jokes. A newly ensconced vicar attempts to flier for his church and is told by a passerby to ‘F*ck off! I’m wearing a lanyard.’
What makes this show such a winner is the ensemble’s respect for the form they ape. The characters and the off-the-cuff dialogue make for such a perfect impression of the types Austen wrote. The costumes, simple scenography and Oliver Izod’s violin accompaniment ensure that the production is as classy as it is goofy. Simply put, in the style of the great authoress herself, the show is most diverting. Definite light relief in the midst of its own and the festival’s mayhem. Don’t worry if you don’t manage to beg a ticket this week, Austentatious will be returning to a variety of London venues from 10th September onwards.