I remember seeing Austentatious for the first time a few years as part of the free festival at the Counting House. The buzz was already strong for this marvellous improvised Jane Austen novel, with the queue trailing round the corner and both audience and cast seemingly loving every second of this one-off adventure.
Since then the gang – which includes celebrated solo acts like Joseph Morpurgo, Rachel Parris and Cariad Lloyd – has gone from strength to strength, and has now set up home in the main Underbelly venue on George Square, serving as one of the Fringe’s true success stories.
Hello. How are you today?
How kind you are indeed – what gentleness of manner! Quite well, we assure you, and all the better for your asking.
Are you ready for another month of Edinburgh Fringe action?
One can never be truly ready for such an endeavour, but our footmen and housemaids have been sent ahead to ensure that the Udderbelly is decorated appropriately, and our second-best tableware readied for the awaited visitations of a great many of the Scotch.
At this stage, how closely does your programme blurb match the content of your show?
Do you accuse us of artifice? Why, Mr Wickham may be content with seeming, but we assure you we have been quite forthright in our pronouncements. A “brand new Jane Austen work before your very eyes, based on a single audience suggestion” remains very much what you will get.
What are your tips for getting people to see your show?
One should never look overly keen to receive visitors, and should greet their arrival with a practiced nonchalance, preferably by looking up from some embroidery. In all, if your conversation is diverting (the French, blood-sports, the Bible), and your home accommodating, they are bound to call upon you before the week is up.
Who are you sharing a flat with this festival and how will you help each other survive the month?
We couldn’t possibly contemplate ‘sharing’ – how vulgar! We shall of course take substantial lodgings and will be quite alone. Aside from the butler. And the housekeeper, of course. Plus the cook, valet, coachman, footmen, grooms, lady’s maid, head nurse, nursery maids, housemaids, kitchen maid, laundry maid, dairy maid, scullion, steward, bailiff, gamekeeper and gardener. And the governess, much as we long to be rid of the insipid girl. We can but hope that such a pared-down train will be adequate to ensure ‘survival’.
Any shows you’re particularly excited about seeing?
Theatricals are in the main a rather coarse pursuit, and public excitement unseemly. We will give the baying pit a wide berth in favour of bracing walks in the Scottish hills, and restrict our excitement to prayer time and when we eat jelly. If you must insist on ensconcing yourself in a playhouse, however, we would beg you to note some rather excellent lone entertainments peddled by some familiar Austentatious faces: Daniel Nils Roberts: Honey, Andrew Hunter Murray: Round One and Rachel Parris: Best Laid Plans.
Other than the great shows, what else are you looking forward to about your trip to Edinburgh this year?
There is something rather quaintly refreshing about the manner of speech of the Northern lowly, although in truth quite what it is they are actually saying remains a firm mystery, and we must content ourselves with a slight bow and depart with haste to the chaise and four.
What’s your topping at The Baked Potato Shop on Cockburn Street?
Potted fowl, a turtle of 120lbs and some syllabub.
Here’s a space to write about anything you want. Go for it.
Why, how delightfully akin to our own show this is! Come to the Udderbelly up in Edinburgh to hear us ‘go for it’ on ‘anything we want’ with much zest and gumption!
Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel
Underbelly, George Square
5-21 August, 1.30pm
£11.50 – £12.50