As someone who likes to think they’re fairly au fait (or at least familiar!) with the works of our country’s greatest writers – Dickens, Orwell, Austen – I jolly well trotted along to The Riverfront in Newport on Friday night for my fill of culture. The Jane Austen play on the stage before me, however, was the likes of which I’d never seen before!
The delightful ladies and gentleman of the Austentatious cast brought us a wonderfully quirky, improvised Austen-style performance, aptly named by a chosen audience member as ‘Delight and Discombobulation’.
Discombobulation and delight certainly summed up my feelings for the production to a T! As the production began, and the winning title was selected, I was well and truly discombobulated.
I must admit I’ve never seen an improvised play before so I didn’t fully know what to expect, but as the show began, it certainly caused me a few raised eyebrows.
I soon settled into the flow of things though and, amongst hearty laughter, found myself feeling joyfully delighted and willing for the main protagonists to declare their love for one another.
The performance told the tale of Mr Barker, a young man who fancied himself as quite the poet, having won all sorts of awards during his school days (although, we later discover his brother fixed the competitions each time). Our young poet tries his darnedest to woo a young lady, Miss Delight, with his less-than-romantic words; he’s left feeling crestfallen when his literary prowess just doesn’t do the trick.
The cast of Austentaious!
After many attempts to confess his love, by writing a piece named “I Like Eyes” and by ordering a billboard and declaring his desire for his lady’s sexy coral nuggets, he feels all is lost; Miss Delight will never be his, so he enrols with the armed forces.
Meanwhile, Miss Delight accepts a marriage proposal and sets off to live a new life with a renowned lothario, seemingly never to see her true love again.
When the siblings of Mr Barker and Miss Delight realise what’s going on, and the undesirable situations the young would-be-couple have put themselves in, they set off on a mission to rescue them and reunite them once and for all, meeting a no-nonsense corporal and a shanking goblin along their way (who, as it turns out, are very handy on a rescue mission!)
Austentatious certainly offers a light-hearted and uplifting evening of fun. Each member of the cast was absolutely fantastic, throwing themselves fully into their improvised characters. I urge you, if this production comes to a theatre near you, go and check it out.
Image: Robert Viglasky