“One of the most enjoyable 60 minutes on the fringe” is how The Guardian summarises AUSTENTATIOUS – AN IMPROVISED JANE AUSTEN NOVEL, an improvised comedy play, based on nothing more than a title from the audience. It’s ‘eloquent, irreverent and a 100% improvised take on the works of Britain’s best-loved novelists.’ Some titles from previous shows include ‘Mansfield Shark’, ‘Jurassic Mansfield Park’, Sixth Sense and Sensibility’, Darcy & Hutch’ and ‘I know What You Did Last Season.’
For one night only, January 9 to be precise, the seven dashing dames and buxom boys of AUSTENTATIOUS swapped bonnets and breeches and took to the boards of the Leicester Square Theatre in London to perform CROSSTENTATIOUS to raise money for the Pancreatic Cancer Fund.
The four damsels, Amy Cooke-Hodgson, Cariad Lloyd, Charlotte Gittens and Rachel Parris signed this sketch of them in their regular Regency attire. I had no room on the A4 sheet to fit Graham Dickson, Joseph Morpurgo and Andrew Hunter Murray who complete the troupe, but they will all be back in their London ‘home’ at the end of the month and the next month and the following month… in fact they are many happy returners, so I can collect the gentleman’s graphs and catch another show.
Emma Thompson has won two Academy Awards and apparently keeps both in her downstairs bathroom because she’s embarrassed to place them in a more prominent place.
She is the only person to have won an Oscar in the acting and writing categories. After winning the Best Actress in Howard’s End (1992) she won again for Best Adapted Screenplay for Sense and Sensibility (1995).
Producer Lindsay Doran spent ten years looking for a suitable writer to adapt Jane Austen’s 1811 romance novel into a screenplay. After reading some of Emma’s earlier comedy skits, she hired her, stating that she had the right balance between satire and romance.
“It’s a story of love and money – some people need one more than the other,” Emma said. She spent four years writing it and continued to refine during actual production.
This was Emma’s first screenplay, and a risk for any studio. The selection of Taiwanese director Ang Lee to helm his first major film was also a surprise. Initially not considered for an acting role, Emma was convinced to join Kate Winslet to play the Dashwood sisters. Both received Oscar nominations for their performances. Any concerns proved unfounded as Sense and Sensibility went on to become a major commercial and critical success, cited as the best adaption of Austen’s work, garnering seven Oscar and twelve BAFTA nominations amongst a myriad of other awards.
An interesting anecdote occurred when Emma was a guest on the TV quiz show QI, hosted by her friend Stephen Fry. It was revealed that Stephen had saved her Sense and Sensibility script when her computer malfunctioned and turned her writing into hieroglyphics.
After 7 hours the script was restored. Fellow participant Alan Davis questioned Stephen’s technical skills and suggested he probably rewrote it. Emma candidly agreed to that possibility and said she would drop the Oscar around to his home.
Emma signed my sketch at her London office in 1996.