Austentatious, a Fringe favourite, is back and selling out. It’s easy to see why – this is a clever, properly funny improv show that buzzes with energy for a full hour.
The troupe’s take on the Austen formula is quite simple – rich posh people respond to whichever scandal has hit their rich posh world, before a romantic and affirmative conclusion. This formula is a really effective foundation for improvisation: there’s enough structure for spontaneous plots to hang together, there are enough tropes for the company to meta-theatrically mock to their heart’s content, and there’s enough flexibility for the performances to avoid stagnation.
Potential titles are placed into a hat by audience members – the one selected for the performance I saw was “Sense and Sexy Hillbillies”. The company were quick to respond – once a promising British gentleman, Jonathan has returned from the USA, with terrible deportment and an even more scandalous accent. He sets about organising line dancing at the up-coming ball, moving the furniture into the garden, and spitting in the company of the ladies of the house. This won’t do, and a family disaster brews.
The company work together wonderfully, and are excellent at responding to one another’s cues or mistakes. Travelling through Texas to find an exiled Jonathan, one character remarks to his parched companion, “Fear not. There will be water in Virginia.” The biggest laughs come from moments that thrive off the improvisational mayhem, and the cast know how to capitalise on it: “That dusty rocking chair, it’s like something out of a horror… [a look of panic] …painting.”
Unlike other improvised shows, Austentatious manages to ably fill its run-time – the cast generate ample material, well plotted, to keep the laughs up throughout. This is delightfully flippant fun, fully deserving of its huge popularity.
Austentatious is at Pleasance Dome (Venue 23) until 25 August. For more information and tickets, visit the EdFringe website.