Austentatious at Leicester Square Theatre review ****



Leicester Square Theatre, 26th February 2017

So I am guessing that a good number of people have already stumbled across the comedy joy that this improvisatory troupe bring. So I’ll get to the point. The premise is simple. Take some suggestions from the audience for daft, “unpublished” Jane Austen novel titles and then improvise plot and character over the thick end of an hour around that. I suspect there may be a little “deus ex machina” in the choice of title that is actually picked out of the hat but even so, the revolving cast of actors are so honed at this that there are guaranteed chuckles, titters and, for me, quite a few belly laughs.

Now obviously if you see this you probably will have some regard for the work of Austen. And it helps that the great lady herself was a master at the art of gentle situation comedy. So taking her stock situations and characters and poking fun at them was, in hindsight, always going to be a winner. But this lot are doing it in real time, whilst having to gauge the reactions of each other and audience, resolve the narrative twist and turns, and make it properly funny. I massively take my hat off to anyone brave enough to do improv and it is often a device that disappoints or annoys. But not here. They are outstanding, including the cellist on the night we went, and very clever, as they have to be to incorporate the multiplicity of references and the barrage of sight gags. And I assume the more they practice they better they have become.

So if you think this sounds like your cup of tea then do not hesitate. They regular pitch up here, elsewhere in London, in Edinburgh during the festival and on tour, so it should be easy enough to track them down.

There is very little on which the tourist’s family can agree on in terms of entertainment. The complex negotiations required even to watch a DVD or Netflix film would test the Foreign Office. We are constantly praying for a new comedy series to appear on the box as this is the one likely constant in a sea of argument and resentment. MS, and even more so MSC, are careful to time their visits to avoid any potential TV watching longueurs. We can, just occasionally, look forward to the next Bond movie or backwards, misty-eyed, to anything by Mischief Theatre, but otherwise it every man or woman for him/herself, tapping away or staring aimlessly at their own devices.

For one precious hour though Austentatious brought us together. It might work for you too. “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours and laugh at them in our turn” as Ms A apparently wrote in P and P.

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