Brighton Year-Round 2019
Austentatious is an improvised comedy play starring a cast of the country’s quickest comic performers. Each show is entirely unique as the cast conjure up a brand new ‘lost’ Jane Austen novel based on nothing more than a title suggested by the audience.
There are some familiar faces gracing the stage of Austentatious, the most recognisable perhaps being that of the Daily Mash’s Rachel Parris. She kicks off the tomfoolery by soliciting made up book titles from the audience, which will serve as the inspiration for the evening’s dramatisation of the lost Jane Austen novel.
She listens to a few and impressively gives a completely impromptu synopsis of the invented books, until a very overexcited child shouts out ‘Frankly, Professor Mortimer’, this book title is chosen and the play begins.
As with any improvised comedy, especially in the longform style, it is hard to believe that the actors are making everything up on the spot; from the characters, to the plot and scene structures. However, at the same time it is absolutely obvious that this is invented nonsense as the absurd plot twists come thick and fast, taking us somewhat worryingly into the world of incest.
The play is delivered very much in the style of Jane Austen, with plenty of anachronistic language thrown in for good measure. This is sometimes coupled with (purposeful or accidental) use of modern colloquialisms which are frequently picked up and mocked by the other actors on stage, to great effect.
There is also a live violinist onstage who underscores each scene with appropriately period sounding music, that often is employed to heighten the tension or encourage a love scene. Sadly in our version we had no balls or singing, but I imagine the musician would very much help to set the scene for these things in other incarnations.
Our play – Frankly, Professor Mortimer, was a typical Austeneque story of teacher and pupil falling in love. However, unknown to the hapless yet bright Lucy, Professor Mortimer (Frank Lee Mortimer no less), was a plagiarist and philanderer.
In a further plot twist and stroke of dramatic irony, the audience discover that Professor Mortimer is in fact Lucy’s father, following a shameful affair 19 years earlier with her mother. We watch horrified as he woos the innocent Lucy, kissing her in the woods, much to everyone’s revulsion.
Finally, the terrible truth is revealed (including the rather spurious addition that the professor also killed Lucy’s father – taking us into the realms of Greek Tragedy.) Professor Mortimer is banished and the family come together again.
It really was a rather good story, despite it being made up on the spot by the talented and hilarious cast. The audience responded with much laughter and cheering, and whilst I can absolutely recommend that you go and see the show, you will of course get something utterly different next time, and who knows where the mad minds of the cast will lead you?!