Austentatious

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Scudding soft blue skies and lots of them met me as I ambled into the elegant city centre of Edinburgh on day three of the Fringe.

Searching for the exact venue in this most packed and convoluted of festivals, I eventually found the Udderbelly – my number one entertainment destination for the day.

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On entering the upside down cow, we were given a slip of paper.  It looked like a Penguin novel cover, but the title was blank, and herein lay the magic of this particular theatrical experience.  The audience were invited to write down a title suggestion for the ‘long lost’ Jane Austen novel and submit it to one of the cast who wandered about with a black bowler hat collecting them.

I made myself comfortable and began to write.  The minute I handed it in I prayed it wouldn’t be chosen; it was the first thing that had come into my mind and now that I thought about it, I hadn’t got a clue how they’d cope if it was pulled out of the hat. The deal was it had to be spoken as a line somewhere within the ensuing performance.

I stopped panicking.  What was I worrying about? Out of an audience of say 500 it would be highly unlikely.  My lottery ticket never got chosen, I never win competitions.  I was sure this would run true to form.

“But the one lost novel we’d like to perform for you today for the first and the last time” the Jane Austenley dressed narrator announced to the audience after reading out a couple from the hat, “Is neither of the aforementioned, but rather this one…”  He rummaged around in the bottom of the hat and unfolded the paper to loudly pronounce the winning title:  ‘Harry, I LOVE your hairband.’

The audience laughed and I almost shrieked: ’That’s mine!  That’s mine!’ Modesty prevailed and instead I quietly mentioned it to my neighbour who looked at me askance as if to say: ‘And you call that a title?’

What followed was pure genius and needless to say absolutely hilarious.

On my way out I spoke to one of the cast.  “How do you do it?!” I asked.
“We’ve been performing this together for a couple of years now.” Joe told me.  “The main thing is we try to honour the storyline, respect what everyone else is doing and saying, and just keep developing it.  It’s great that – given it was your suggestion – you know for sure it really is completely improvised!”

I embraced Joe and Graham from sheer joy, reminded yet again that most of the time trusting your instincts works out just fine.

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