Austwentatious – Underbelly

Rating: 4 out of 5.

You’re invited to attend the social event of the season. And it’s going to be absolute chaos.

Making name for infusing the prestige of Jane Austen with the improved tactics and sly humour of some of the nation’s best comics, Austentatious has continued to claim its crown as the Fringe’s favourite improvisation comedy and theatrical piece. Give them a title, any title, and the team with spin a yarn Austen herself would be envious of. Borrowing themes, character skeletons and stereotypes of the genre, Austentatious removes all sense from the sensibility but continues to claim the pride they fully deserve.

This evening’s title? Twelve Hangry Northmen. And try as you might guess where the characters and jokes may emerge – we guarantee you haven’t a clue to the avenues and jokes the Austentatious crew can conjure up. Let’s just put it this way. Never has being a baker been quite so dangerous. Envious the speed and quality of the production improv are staggering, and though some elements or character name flubs occur (one can’t be expected to remember all of this on the fly), the arching quality and even depth to some of the jokes are quite wonderful.

But let’s take a moment shall we, to appreciate the driving force of this bakery, this unmitigated chaos onstage, and this obvious Les Miserable fan in Ms. Amy Cooke-Hodgson. An absolute treasure to the company, Cooke-Hodgson’s quick wit and ability to turn others’ lobbed grenades into her own is a masterclass in quick-paced comedy and improv. Tidy, humorous, and able to roll with the punches and flubs, Cooke-Hodgson represents everything tremendous with the company.

And where the flubs roll, cast members can pick the ball up with ease and speed, turning the gags and skits with a quitter reception into forgotten moments dwarfed by the show’s gems. This quick fix ability is largely attributed to the stellar musical talents of the company’s guest pianist, who whips up an accompanying piece with ease to match the situation – from distress to romance, to witches burning at the stake, and even a few copyrighted classics.

Unshackling the Period Drama’s fuddy and dusted visage, Austentatious flings away the chastity belts and corsets for a marvellously contemporary reimagining of Austen’s world-renowned novels. Maintaining respect for the originals they borrow from, dignity may be flung out the window, but buckets of laughter take their place. With so many appetites to appease, Austentatious manages to find a way to satisfy the masses of Edinburgh, and those Twelve Hangry Northmen.

Marvellously contemporary reimagining

Further information, including tour dates, about the improv group, can be found here.

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