Jamie Walker talks to the team putting a new spin on classic Jane Austen novels.

Tell us about the show?

Austentatious is an improvised Jane Austen comedy show inspired by audience suggestions. It’s performed in regency costume with live musical accompaniment and no two shows are ever the same.

Where did the idea for it come about?

Rachel Parris and I were performing in an improvised cabaret double act called Mother’s Ruin and began talking about the possibility of developing a “long form” period drama show with a larger cast.

A few of us who had met at Oxford and performed short form improv (a bit like Who’s Line is it Anyway games) got together and began to develop a Jane Austen inspired show.

We invited a couple more people to join us and began trying out the format and the rest is history.

Your shows involve a lot of audience interaction, in fact the show couldn’t get going without it. How important was it for you to make the audience feel as involved as possible?

Our show is based on a title of a “lost” Jane Austen novel which is imagined by an audience member.

We ask every audience member to think of a made up title and write it down on our book cover sheets ready to shout out (if they wish) at the beginning of the show.

A Jane Austen professor, played by one of the cast, presents a short lecture on Jane’s work using the titles from the audience and then one of those is chosen by the professor to be the title of the show that night. And so the theatricals begin.

Audience participation in the form of title suggestions is voluntary but of course integral to the show. We think of the audience as part of our ensemble for the night helping to create the jumping off point for our story, one that will never be seen again.

Is it tough to improv those ideas in different ways every single night?

We’ve been doing the show for nearly eight years now. We originally thought we might only do Jane Austen for a year and then move on to another author but we’ve had so much fun exploring the world of Jane and the regency period that we’re still telling stories inspired by her all these years later.

We try very hard to make sure our stories are different every time by playing a variety of characters and creating different scenarios for each other to play with.

There are times when you’re playing shows back to back for a long period of time, say in Edinburgh, where you have to work especially hard not to fall in to the trap of repeating plot points but since there are five or six actors on stage all making choices it’s very unusual that someone in the cast won’t surprise you with something you weren’t expecting, which in improv is the biggest gift!

What do you think Jane Austen would make of her “lost” novels if she were to see them?

I genuinely think she’d love them. Our work is performed with a real love and respect for her writing. She created such legendary characters and witty dialogue; we only hope that our show has the same tongue in cheek approach that Jane would approve of.

Have their been any particular stand out shows for you?

There have been so many over the years it’s hard to recall them all but of course there are some that you can remember clearer than others. For me they are usually shows where we’ve managed to create a believable emotional connection between characters and where the audience are invested in what happens to them.

When an audience gasps or are elated at a kiss, it’s the best feeling in the world. Other stand out shows are when real life somehow trickles in to what’s happening on stage.

So why is this the show to see?

You don’t need to be a Jane Austen fan to enjoy Austentatious. It’s a hilarious comedy tale inspired by you and it’s different every night, so even if you’ve seen us before, you’ve every reason to come again.

Also The Times gave us five stars and The Guardian said we were “high grade humour”, so you don’t just have to take our word for it.