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Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel Review

| Comedy | 04/07/2013

Photo by Idil Sukan

Prepare to be taken back in time, way back to 1814 for a truly unauthentic experience! Austentatious, an improvised comedy play is the creation of Milk Monitors, a group of six comedic actors who promise to improvise their way through an hour long play based on a Jane Austen novel that was never written.

The show has the feel of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival about it and this is complimented by the choice of venues they are performing in, here in London. The intimate and charming Leicester Square Theatre, The Wheatsheaf and The Old Queen’s Head. There is something special about knowing each performance is unique. Before the show the audience is asked to submit their own Jane Austen book title, one is chosen at random and the team of six act out their interpretation of it. Aptly the title of their June 30th show was Gay Pride.

The set is very simple, and low cost. A few chairs serve the purpose of fete stalls, horse drawn carriages, puppet show stages. A few simple changes and additions to costumes – scarfs, hats and jackets, help the audience to follow character changes. Although there were some inconsistencies at the beginning, characters went from being cousins to sisters in quick succession and the name of the village changed, there were a few running gags throughout the play, reassuring the audience they are listening and working off each other.

The show appeals to Austen fans but it is an accessible topic for many people. However it is light hearted, and only very loosely based on the authors work. The improvisers manage their task by creating little scenes – while some are on stage the others wait on the side line ready to chip in or end a scene, as they feel necessary. One of the most enjoyable things about this performance is how the actors work together. By setting each other challenges they do not give their co-stars an easy time. By putting each other on the spot they come up with genuinely funny theatre.

One problem, although it is entertaining throughout there is a point in the middle that seems to feel uncertain. The audience do not know where they are going with the story, maybe the actors did not either. However at 8pm on the dot they reached their conclusion, and it amazingly wrapped up the play in a very satisfactory and dramatic way.

There is no doubt this group are very talented and it is a great concept.

They are performing this show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer, the first Tuesday of every month at The Wheatsheaf, the third Wednesday of every month at The Old Queen’s Head and monthly at The Leicester Square Theatre.

By Ellena Perry

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