Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel, Underbelly, Review

Submitted by JD Stewart on Fri, 7 Aug '15 9.21pm
Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Austentatious and Underbelly Productions
Running time

There is either something wonderful or something terrible to be said about improvisation. The cast of Austentatious most definitely fall into the more-than-wonderful column, performing with such deftness that you wouldn’t be able to tell it was improv at all.

On arrival at Underbelly's Purple Cow, in a different location from where it was four years ago, the audience members were asked to give the name of their own Jane Austen novel. For many, I would imagine this is a simple task, and for others this is where the fun can really begin. The ideas were then collected in, one title is chosen, and once announced the cast take their places to perform an hour of riotous comedy with nothing more than said title. The story was also presented with a beautiful violin accompaniment, which added to the Austen-style and overall feel – especially in creating some tension.

Our novel title revolved around "jalopy". If that word doesn’t give you an inkling of how it all turned out then I really don’t know how else to describe it. That is what is wonderful about improv shows like these. As an audience member and a cast member, you just have no idea how it will all turn out. Thankfully, they ran with it – and created a story which seemed more fleshed out than some pre-written pieces of theatre.

The cast of six – three men and three women – clearly had a strong degree of trust in each other which was visible from the outset. Despite a small number of laughs from the cast – mainly due to the obscurity placed before them – they kept it together with the professionalism of real pros. I would imagine the amount of practice they have had with the possibility of anything can happen, they have no other choice but to keep on going.

Another enjoyable factor of this hour of comedy is that it is most definitely suitable for all ages. The cast blended the past and the present with seamless ease and also managed to draw belly laugh moments from the quick-witted banter between them.

The show also offers up variety every day with a new “Undiscovered Austen Novel” played out right before your eyes. Whether you’re an Austen fan or not, this is worth your time purely for the master class in improvisation laid before your eyes. It left me with one question: How do they do it?

7-31 August (not 18th), 1.15pm. £12.50 (Concession £11.50)