Reviewer: Tracey Lowe
Improvised comedy can be risky. As can messing with one of the world’s most beloved authors, Jane Austen. Luckily, neither the audience nor performers The Milk Monitors are too precious about accurately preserving Austen’s works, in this completely improvised, surprise Fringe smash, Austentatious.
The Milk Monitors are completely at the whim of the audience, with each attendee asked to contribute a potential title of the night’s performance, picked at random. Tonight’s choice is local favourite, The Salford Maiden. The performers quickly create a world of love, lies, and lactose-based character names. Siblings Lord and Lady Bennick have just arrived at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Frog, with the intention of finding a wife for Lord Bennick. The two contenders are Frog spawn Caroline (Amy Cooke Hodgson), a seven-foot-tall Denmark-born blonde, and her sister Genevieve (Charlotte Gittins), a diminutive brunette. We also meet sisters Butter, Margarine, and Lard, whose level of glamour is reflected in their respective names.
The content of the story is unimportant, and it changes with every performance. What matters is how unbelievably slick this play is, and how talented each of these comic performers are. Rising star Cariad Lloyd ably and subtly keeps things running smoothly, encouraging her fellow performers to explore every comedic opportunity. Graham Dickson gives a fantastic performance as Mr. Frog, severely impressing the audience with his Lambada skills. The aforementioned Hodgson and Gittins continually played on their perceived height differences, creating some beautiful moments of physical comedy.
Austentatious is usually a one-hour show, allowing for a sharp burst of hilarity. This tour performance lasted for almost ninety minutes in its entirety, and understandably the quality dipped following the superfluous interval. While the characters had been well established in the first act, it took a while for the performers to re-create this mad world.
It was such a privilege to see a group of great, young comedy performers showing you don’t need a team of writers drafting and re-drafting a script to keep the audience in stitches. While the show is inspired by the writings of Jane Austen, this is not merely a show for literature fanatics. Austentatious is professional, hilarious and highly enjoyable.
Photo: Idil Sukan of Draw HQ | Reviewed on 17th May 2014