Theatre Review










Peter Huntley presents



Music and Lyrics by Matt Board and Joe Slabe

Book by Matt Board, Jane Caplow,

Kate Galvin,

Luisa Hinchliff and Joe Slabe

Landor Theatre

4-28 March 2009








A review by Peter Carrington for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Like the labyrinthine world of Regency etiquette, farce has many rules to follow.  Many of these rules are subtle, which the offender only realises they have broken after they have offended their audience.  Friday night’s production of ‘Austentatious’, a musical by Matt Board and Joe Slabe stayed within such boundaries but with enough wit to be an entertaining evening.

The musical revolves around the fictional Camberford Regional Arts Panel’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, taking great joy in destroying the cherished novel and mining the resulting debris for elusive comedy gold.  We follow the doomed production from initial casting to final production, the audience watching in horror as the regency favourite is mutated into near-unrecognisable parody.  Board and Slabe know their genre well, allowing the comedy to drive the story, but knowing that the musical demands a wealth of emotion and resolution.

There is a danger from ‘plays within plays’ to become too self-referential about the theatre, making them impenetrable to those outside the backstage sphere.  However Austentatious sometimes in a manner reminiscent of the madness front and backstage of Michael Frayn’s Noises Off, manages to easily draw in the audience with catchy songs and broad caricatures.  As the musical progresses the style of music changes from show tunes to jazzier numbers and blues.  The capable musicians did not place a note wrong.

The show is exceptionally well cast, with each actor and actress embodying their characters with ease.  Cassidy Janson is genuinely likable as the put-upon Stage Manager Sam, dealing with the cast always threatening to tear the production apart.  Simon Lipkin, clearly a budding physical comedian throws himself around with abandon as Blake, only hampered by the few jokes about stoners which seem cheap amongst the cleverer gags of the rest of the musical.  Richard Meek conjures up believable chemistry on stage as David, thrown into the role of Mr Darcy.  Jenna Boyd fits perfectly into her role as Jessica, delivering songs and lines with perfect comedic timing.  Llan Goodman, while not a strong singer portrays the director Dominic with the correct nuances to be pretentious but without over-acting.  Fem Belling, skips and jumps around stage as Emily, the writer and choreographer convinced this is all a vehicle for her and Lucy Mills injects all the venom of an embittered cobra cross bred with a lioness into Lauren, the arrogant stage brat.  It is hard to fault such a cast, well placed to bring these caricatures to life.

The real spectacle of the evening comes when the production within the production takes place, anarchically butchering Austen’s work and causing the audience to roar with laughter.  While there was never a feeling of blasting away the boundaries of musical theatre, the show was genuinely funny.  The production plays safely within the stereotypes and clichés of the genre but it does so with such joy, it is funny enough to sweep even the most cynical audience member into the song.


Wednesday 4th - Saturday 28th March
 at 7.30pm
(Matinees Sunday 8th, 15th & 22nd March at 3pm,
no Monday performances)
Ticket prices; £15 - £12 concessions
Landor Theatre
70 Landor Road, London SW9 9PH