The ever-hilarious Austentatious return to the West End with a Monday night residency at the Fortune Theatre
“Forgive me, I did not know a mouth baby should be addressed so”
It’s been a moment since I’ve seen Austentatious. Their rise has been sure and steady over the last few years, graduating from monthly residencies at the Leicester Square Theatre to the Savoy Theatre and then on to a weekly booking at the Fortune Theatre, whilst also finding time for highly successful national tours and seasons at the Edinburgh Fringe. And that’s also not to mention that this is a side hustle for this company of very-much-in-demand comedians.
I’ve seen them just a few times over the years but weekly visits at West End prices are beyond even my devotion (that said, there is a loyalty card scheme…). But I couldn’t resist a visit to welcome them back to the bijou surroundings of the Fortune where we were treated to the surreal delights of Northanger Crabby. For the uninitiated, Austentatious is a show entirely improvised in Jane Austen-style and costume from a title suggested by the audience.
And as ever, it was hilarious, so very funny in ways it is impossible to explain. Seeing the whole company crack up at the terrifying concept of a mouth baby, running with ideas about what Pinocchio might sound like, being awfully keen to rub away crotch stains from a weeping orange… As you might guess, the comedy is far from restrained to the Regency era but it was interesting to see elements of Gothic horror perhaps more akin to the Brontës creeping in here – I don’t think I’ve seen them flirt with such darkness before (Daniel Nils Robert to play Heathcliff soon though, *swoon*).
But the playfulness of the company is what wins you over time and again, and makes you want to book for a return visit, and then another. This show saw Lauren Shearing joining regulars Amy Cooke-Hodgson, Charlotte Gittins, Andrew Hunter Murray, Daniel Nils Roberts and Rachel Parris (Graham Dickson, Cariad Lloyd and Joseph Morpurgo make up the rest of the core company) along with violinist (and terrible corpser Oliver Izod) and in their collection of careless sisters, creepy apple trees and cider-guzzling asset-strippers, offer some blessed comic relief in these times of consternation.