If Pride & Prejudice taught us anything it is that one should not leap to rash conclusions based on a one-sided account. So it is convenient indeed that this week has seen Austentatious approached from two very different perspectives.
First up The Times, who tackle the irrepressible rise of UK improv in an article marking the upcoming launch of the Bristol Improv Theatre, the first venue in the country established to showcase solely unpremeditated dramatic delights.
Our very own Ms Cariad Lloyd articulates the unique dynamic that makes the group tick in this extract from the article:
“Improvising doesn’t feel like work to me. It’s a cliché, I know, but it feels like coming home.” And when it clicks, she says, it’s like nothing else. “I haven’t done many drugs, barely any, but I’d imagine . . . you are all reaching a high together, you are all on stage and thinking the same thing. It’s what you look for in any relationship, isn’t it?”
If that’s one explanation of our unique appeal, quite another is offered up in a brand new book, Marina Cano’s Jane Austen & Performance.
It is flattering indeed to be considered “a good closing example of the eminently performative and theatrical force behind Austen’s stories”, although we do fear the impact of the literary-Inception triggered by our show about Austen being analysed in the same manner as our source material.
Still, we look forward to putting the following pull-quote on our Edinburgh posters:
Through their flawed imitation of Austenian tropes and stories, Austentatious exposes the imitative nature of the Austen phenomenon: the actors frequently quote the screen adaptations—in their frequent inclusion of a final kiss and their use of the soundtrack of Langton’s BBC miniseries in their promotional video. Paraphrasing Butler, Austentatious’s parodic recitation of Austen reveals that performance is to source text not as copy is to original, but rather as copy is to copy.
So is improvising Austen akin to a collective narcotic buzz, or a perspicacious exposition of “the imitative nature of the Austen phenomenon”? We expect it’s a bit of both.
Now before we get cold turkey, we’re off to Caterham tonight, for another hit of purest Jane.
“With such an husband, her misery was considered certain.“
AUSTEN PREDICTS MELANIA TRUMP BY A MERE 200 YEARS IN PRIDE & PREJUDICE…
The Troupe As A Whole spent a joyous Christmas devoting themselves to the serious businesses of carousing, making merry, and teasing their family members. We are pleased to report that the season was a profitable one: Ms Cooke-Hodgson received a new set of amusingly shaped novelty spatulas from her uncle, and Mr Murray a gift subscription to Tinder (meaning he will have a parcel of firewood delivered to his home each month). As a group, Austentatious are looking forward to returning to the London stage – January’s show was a roaring success, and there are tickets on sale now for February – and are currently finalising their plans for an exciting new mystery venture, which they hope to announce before long!
Mr. Dickson has announced his New Year’s Resolution, which is to find a woman with more than fifteen thousand a year and marry her. The rest of the group has told him that there cannot be more than five women in the country with such incomes, but he has insisted that ‘Any woman should consider herself lucky to receive a dose of Dickson’s Old Peculiar’. We have insisted we do not know what he is talking about.
Mr. Roberts, for his part, insists that his New Year’s Resolution is to be gentle and kind to all those around him, and to obey the Fifteen Moral Scruples laid out in the works of Saint Ethelberg. This is despite the fact that Miss Bagshawe, the butcher’s daughter, swears blind she saw him making very hurtful comments to Palanquin, the milliner’s dog, and stealing an apple pie from the open window of the impoverished widow Miss Anstruther. He denied it, but his fireplace is full of pastry crumbs.
Mr. Morpurgo has been telling everyone he has seen an Unidentified Flying Object in the town. He claims that in late December, at about dusk, he saw a cigar-shaped object whirring across the sky away from him, and felt it scattered some hot fragments in its wake as it fled. This, he insists, is proof, although he was sitting in the town square just outside Wilkins’ Cigar Emporium, around the time of day Wilkins throws out his unused stock.
Mr. Murray has developed a mania for all manner of things beginning with ‘O’, and has become something of a dreadful bore on the subject. otters, orcas, ocelots and opals. He insists these pointless nuggets of trivia shall come in handy one day, perhaps in a theatrical performance; frankly, we have our doubts, and would be far happier if he were consigned to an asylum for the terminally dull.
Ms Cooke-Hodgson has invented a new vegetable she claims she intends to cook with. The carrsnip, a cross between a carrot and parsnip, is a most magnificent vegetable, with all the colour of the one and the shape of the other. She insists that in future, Christmas dinners shall have no need of a Carrot Section and separate Parsnip Zone, and that her new vegetable will have swept all before it. We hope she is right, as she has spent her whole inheritance on the idea.
Ms Parris has been penning rude songs about the Prince Regent, and performing them for selective crowds of young people in the town. Some of the songs are mild, and simply based on amusing misunderstandings of the word ‘plum’, but others are very rude indeed, seem almost designed to provoke litigation, and if Miss Parris is not careful she will be seized by the King’s Guardsmen and left in a cell until she’s realllllllly sorry.
Ms Gittins has been on a tour her management have termed ‘The Balls of the Continent’. From Vienna to Amsterdam and at every town in between, she has been performing her improvisations with great success and no little genius, adeptly adapting her performance to the whims of the crowd. It is believed she has a retinue of fans who would either kill or die for a single glance from her, which she finds very tiresome.
Ms Lloyd has taken a new protégé under her wing. She and her young companion are seldom seen apart; they go everywhere together, and are indeed quite inseparable. They gossip together, and are surely quite the most natural and delightful pair of souls to be found in the whole village.
“…have a cheerful, and at times even a merry, Christmas.” JANE AUSTEN, 1808
On Friday 27th November, we return to Scotland for one night only as part of Edinburgh’s Christmas 2015! Join us in the wintery warmth of the Spiegeltent on St. Andrew Square at 9.30pm for a very special evening of festive merriment.
Tickets are available in advance online or on 0844 545 8252. You may also buy them directly from the box offices on St. Andrew Square, in East Princes Street Gardens and at the magical-sounding Santa Land.
We have written a letter to St. Nicholas, asking him to deliver us only the most eligible of guests, so we await your arrival with breathless anticipation! You will find us waiting hopefully between the wassail bowl and the kissing bough…
As well as Austentatious at Edinburgh’s Udderbelly from 6th to 31st August, we also have an extra special, late-night charity performance on Monday 17th August. Join the ladies and gentlemen of the cast as we swap bonnets and breeches for Crosstentatious, an evening of cross-dressing Regency comedy, all in aid of Waverley Care!