Austentatious at the Savoy Theatre brings some ‘much needed regency merriment’
Carleigh Nicholls reviews Austentatious at the Savoy Theatre, an entirely improvised take on Jane Austen.
Over the last few years, Austentatious has delighted audiences throughout the U.K., and it is now back in London at the Savoy Theatre just in time for the holidays to bring about some much needed regency merriment. Austentatious is an entirely improvised play, where the actors claim to have no pre-conceived notions on plot or characters prior to their performances. Rather, the audience is instructed to come up with a made-up book title and the cast chooses one at random which serves as the basis for the evening’s performance. As such, no show is ever the same, and the results are simply hilarious.
In my case, the cast performed the “lost” novel, “Carry on, Follow that Carriage.” Pornographic flipbooks, carriage accidents, and kicked owls were just part of the shenanigans that ensued throughout the story. What makes Austentatious so funny is that the cast actually believably portray themselves as regency characters, whilst they are taking part in these ridiculous scenarios and saying outrageous things. They never forget the genre, even when they are thrown a curveball by their colleagues. It is a delight to watch the cast members work together, constructing scenes and characters. They remember earlier jokes and make sure they follow a continuity. While there are plenty of laughs, Austentatious works so well because the cast is adept at moving the plot forward and not getting lost in the hijinks that are ensuing.
Improvised theatre is make or break depending on the cast, and fortunately, Austentatious is full of highly skilled actors who are quick on their feet. Particular standouts in the production I saw included Cariad Lloyd who played the ill-mannered Helen, as well as Amy Cooke-Hodgson who played the widowed Mrs. Bryce. Furthermore, portraying the author of an erotic flipbook, Graham Dickson was still somehow entirely believable as a Jane Austen hero. You can tell that the cast is entirely comfortable with one another, and it works tremendously well. The two musicians, led by Dylan Townley, must also be commended as they adeptly follow along with the actors’ antics to create the appropriate mood, and they never miss a beat.
As Charlotte Lucas states in Pride and Prejudice, ‘happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance,’ and thankfully this strange union between improvised theatre and Jane Austen has blessed audiences with many, many laughs.
Austentatious will be playing at the Savoy Theatre on December 9 and December 16, 2018.
Photographs by Robert Viglasky