June 22, 2024

Edinburgh fringe: The length of the queue doesn’t lie – Austenatious is very funny

Doesn’t money exist to be frittered away?

A lot of people, many of them TV executives, love Jane Austen. They can’t get enough of the bonnets and brooding (and public domain-ness of the text). Other people think Jane Austen is OK, but isn’t really funny enough. Austentatious fix that with their completely improvised spoofs of Jane Austen novels at the Pleasance, Edinburgh. Taking a suggestion from the audience the actors launch into a Jane-inspired play, ostensibly a lost novel that they have found behind the radiator.

The episode I witnessed will sadly not be seen again – the waste! Surely an amanuensis should be sitting at the side taking notes? Lord Grugh and Lord Morrissey had a spat with Soupy Baxter (son of the inventor of ratatouille). This led to… actually, the plot was far too complex to recount. Somehow it included Home County rebels who could only be satisfied with sneak previews of the vicar’s upcoming sermons. There was poor Miss Smith who (no doubt because she was too poor for a real husband) fell in love with an ice sculpture. Mr Baxter’s methods of wooing the beautiful Henrietta included charitably piping soup into municipal fountains to feed the poor. It was Jane Austen, but not quite how I remember the books.

Accidental and anachronistic statements are lampooned, and the cast can be seen trying not to join in the laughter at their colleagues’ inventiveness. The whole ensemble combine to create the madness, but in this episode Graham Dickson was especially hilarious as Soupy Baxter, the man who loves to loom whilst courting, whilst Andrew Hunter Murray’s Grugh was a worthy, villain.

Jane Austen has seeped far enough into the British consciousness that you don’t need to be a Jane Austen scholar to enjoy Austentatious. If you haven’t opened Pride and Prejudice since school you’ll still laugh. If you’ve ever seen a BBC adaptation or enjoy the ‘Baxter, you hound‘ language, you’ll roar.

Rather than picking a title at random, looking at a few of the audience suggestions and choosing the best might be a better catalyst. But the title (in this case Fifty Shades of Jane) is really a minor point on the way to hilarity and happy marriage – although now I think about it this play didn’t end in anyone getting married.

I’m not sure it was written by Jane Austen at all.


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