Reviewed by Kathryn Harrison
On Sunday evening a friend and I headed to The Lowry theatre in Salford, Manchester to watch Austentatious – The Improvised Jane Austen Novel. Upon arrival at the theatre doors we were greeted by a cast member who explained to us that the evening’s performance was as yet untitled and asked us to, once we were in our seats, write our title suggestions down on the paper provided. When the show began one of the actors, Charlotte Gittins, spoke to the audience and invited people to give their title suggestions. With each suggestion given Charlotte gave a brief, comical outline of the plot before choosing the winning title of “Fantastic husbands and where to find them”.
From the title alone the very talented cast began to create the story of Cassandra, played by Amy Cooke-Hodgson who with the help of her sister Susan is looking for a husband. She is introduced to Arthur Miller, played by Daniel Nils Robert. Eventually this couple marry however in true Austen fashion the course to true love is not a smooth one.
Despite being completely improvised the story we were told was completely engaging which is a testament to how fantastic all the actors were. My friend and I, along with the rest of the audience, were laughing throughout most of the play. However I personally found the actor Andrew Hunter Murray most hilarious, every single time he appeared on the stage I was laughing. Andrew played two main characters, Susan’s very dull husband Derek as well as her old flame Alexander Horsham. His ability to play two very different characters so convincingly with no costume changes was absolutely brilliant. Again the whole cast were highly skilled in their ability to change characters almost instantly, with each actor playing a minimum of two roles. The set is very basic however the actors use the minimal props in such a way that it adds to the performance rather than taking anything away. What also adds to the story is the live music played by a very talented musician which provided dramatic tension and lighthearted frivolity depending upon where that current scene was headed.
I was unsure what to expect from this play and I must admit I had my doubts about how well the improvisation could work however I was pleasantly surprised. The show was a joy to watch, non-stop hilarity from beginning to end! I would definitely recommend going along to watch, I don’t think being an Austen fan is a necessity to enjoy the show however if you are you will be in for a treat. As the play is different each night depending upon the title provided I would definitely go to watch this company again.
Austentatious – The Improvised Jane Austen Novel is currently on tour around the UK, for more information and tour dates visit www.austentatiousimpro.com.
For other shows at The Lowry in Manchester visit www.thelowry.com.
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Manchester, M50 3AZ | 0843 208 6000