After sell-out national tours, a West End run and BBC Radio 4 special, Austentatious returns to the Fringe for its seventh year. Every day an all-star cast improvise a brand-new Jane Austen novel based entirely on a single random suggestion from the audience.
Daniel Roberts, one of the cast, spoke with The Fountain about what gives this long-standing show variety as well as their plans beyond the Fringe.
TF: You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year yet again, how exciting, what can we expect?
What you can expect is a relentlessly witty hour of Regency romance, revelations, and intrigues, all performed with joy and gusto by a cast of the country’s top comedians (clad in breeches and bonnets of course), and backed up by a ridiculously talented live musician. What you can’t expect is anything more specific than that, since we’re making it all up as we go along, and it’s completely different every time.
TF: Austentatious has been long-running at the Fringe, how many years now have you been coming?
This is our seventh year at the Fringe (swoon!) – one more than the total number of Jane Austen novels (or alternatively about 960 less, if our show conceit is to be believed). We started at the Free Fringe, and this year we’ll be in the cavernous restored McEwan Hall, so we constantly feel like Lizzie Bennett pinching herself as she wanders the corridors of Pemberley.
TF: And how do you make it different every time, so your audience gets a touch of variety?
It’s not so much a case of a ‘touch’ of variety, as a full on body-slam. The title of the show is decided by a random member of the audience, and we take it all from there, so we really have absolutely no idea where it’s all going. One of the pleasures of performing Austentatious is that people come back several times in a row, because they know that the sense of humour and the dynamic of the performers will be consistent, but that the story and jokes will all be entirely fresh.
TF: What are your plans for the Fringe, you must know Edinburgh inside out by now?
Most of us have been to Edinburgh so many times we are probably eligible for a Scottish passport (handy if independence follows Brexit?), so it’s lovely to return to the familiar nooks and crannies (and inevitable rain). Some of us are also cramming in additional shows. Graham Dickson returns with his second solo concoction ‘Timber’, Amy Cooke-Hodgson is corralling a second impromptu literary offering into shape – ‘Bumper Blyton’ and conducting an adventure in ‘Paddington Bear’s First Concert’, Daniel Nils Roberts pops up in ‘Aaaand Now ForSomething Completely Improvised’, and ‘Rachel Parris’ Musical Comedy Club’ will be three nights of delight.
TF: And what are your future plans beyond Fringe?
We are continuing our monthly West End residency at the Savoy Theatre (fancy!) in London, which has more gilded pillars than we know what to do with, and we’re also saddling the horses for our annual jaunt around the country in the autumn. We are heading everywhere from Newport to Lancaster (with a cheeky detour via Gothenburg – what will the Swedes make of it all?!), so our future is full of Austen-themed fun! We still have no idea what will happen though.
Austentatious, Underbelly – Bistro Square, McEwan Hall, Aug 15th – 24th, 13:10