Reviewed by Kathryn Harrison
On Sunday evening, a friend and I headed to The Lowry theatre in Salford, Manchester to watch Austentatious – The Improvised Jane Austen Novel. This is the second time we have seen Austentatious, having first seen them two years ago, again, at The Lowry. We both absolutely loved the show the first time we saw it so were delighted to have the opportunity to watch it again. Since we last saw the show it has gone from strength to strength, continuing to sell out runs at the Edinburgh fringe festival, a London residency and a BBC radio 4 special. This does not surprise me as it was fantastic in 2017.
Austentatious is a completely improvised show meaning no two performances are the same. The title of that evening’s performance is provided by the audience and the actors create a story from that title. When the show began one of the actors, Andrew Hunter Murray, spoke to the audience and invited people to give their title suggestions. With each suggestion given Andrew gave a brief, comical outline of the plot before choosing the winning title of “The Corn Laws, The Thatching Menace”. This ability to come up with a storyline on the spot is a glimpse of the quick-thinking comedy to come in the rest of the show.
The story created from the title was completely farcical, bordering on ridiculous but in the most wonderful way. It’s not often a production can make you laugh out loud with tears in your eyes but Austentatious does, not occasionally but consistently throughout the whole performance. The talent of the six actors and one musician is clear to see, their quick-thinking improvisation skills, comedic timing and on-stage chemistry are all second to none. As there were only six actors and multiple characters the actors took on many different roles and were able to switch between these roles seamlessly. The set is very basic however the actors use the minimal props in such a way that it adds to the performance rather than taking anything away. What also adds to the story is the live music played by a very talented musician which provided dramatic tension and light-hearted frivolity depending upon where that current scene was headed.
The main thing I like about this production is that all the cast appear to be having fun whilst doing it, there were lots of stifled (and unstifled) laughs from all the actors during the show which just adds to the audience’s laughter and enjoyment. All the cast were brilliant, but my particular favourites were Andrew Hunter Murray and Rachel Parris, both of whom were in the cast the first time I saw the show and were just as excellent this time.
Having seen this show before I had high expectations and they were definitely met, the show is ludicrous and hilarious with all the actors being masters of improvisation. I don’t think you need to be a Jane Austen fan to enjoy this show, but if you are you’re in for a treat!
Tickets cost from £20.50 (booking fees may apply).
Austentatious – The Improvised Jane Austen Novel is at The Lowry in Manchester from 27-28 October 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.thelowry.com or call the box office on 0843 208 6000.
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Manchester, M50 3AZ | 0843 208 6000