It should be a truth universally acknowledged that this improv group is quite brilliant. Following their debut last year, Austentatious is back at the festival and still not charging a penny, acting out yet more of a staggering 796 unpublished works understood to have been written by novelist Jane Austen and lost over the years.
This is the fictional set-up for an hour of freewheeling farce, inspired by an Austen-style title chosen from a slew of suggestions made up by that day's audience. And you don’t have to be a 19th-century scholar to laugh your socks off. The six performers—accompanied by one cellist—borrow from Austen’s era and tone, but the humour is inimitably their own.
Unsurprisingly for a troupe of skilled comedians, actors and writers, these guys know how to take a pithy line and spin it in a dozen directions – mixing allusions to, say, Star Wars and superhero films with a touch of satire and a big dollop of lunacy. They’re clever and quick but never smug.
The laughter rate is high, as even fluffed words and wardrobe malfunctions are developed into running gags. This is relay-race comedy, with potential jokes passed like batons between performers who have great chemistry and know how to play to each other’s strengths.
If the best things in life are free, this joyfully silly show is one of them. Witty, inventive and accessible, it’ll leave you wanting to come back for at least a dozen more ‘lost’ Austens afterwards.