Magic in Jane Austen impro show Sense and Spontaneity


Jessica Messenger and Esther Longhurst in Sense and Spontaneity.
Jessica Messenger and Esther Longhurst in Sense and Spontaneity.

SENSE and Spontaneity is an improvised Jane Austen comedy production that never stops surprising and delighting both its audiences and co-creators/performers Jessica Messenger and Esther Longhurst.

Since part of its magic is in the fact no two shows are the same, it is not surprising this winning formula is returning to Fringe World for a third season from February 21 to 25 before heading to Adelaide Fringe in March.

With audience interaction inspiring the storyline, Messenger said Sense and Spontaneity was “two women with many hats trying to do the impossible”.

“For the Austenites it is a feast of references and iconic characterisations and for the neophytes it is a fun, funny, and fantastical introduction to something they might not have touched with a ten foot pole,” Messenger said.

“And the people dragged along by partners and family tend to drag their own retinue along to the next show. We have audience members who have seen it nearly every single season; sometimes more than once in the same week.”

Messenger and Longhurst’s friendship began 13 years ago when they met during an internship with touring theatre in education company Fine Edge.

A love of improvising took them to train with Glenn Hall at Just Improvise, which inspired them to want their own impro show format.

“Then one day we were keeping Esther’s youngest daughter entertained by acting out stories with toy dinosaurs,” Messenger, a mother of one, said.

“We started creating silly Jane Austen characters, and after a while realised the toddler had wondered off and we had gotten lost in the story. We had a concept, we coined a name and four years later here we are.

“I wasn’t always quite this obsessed with Austen but after playing with this format, and immersing myself in her literature and biographies and letters the last few years, I have really fallen quite deeply in love with her.

“I am currently forcing my lovely and very patient boyfriend to sit through the BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice (which he is loving). It is really interesting watching it again in the wake of #metoo… seeing this incredibly nuanced comment on consent, and male entitlement and the objectification of women.”

Messenger said rehearsing for improvisation was called jamming, where they did practice runs of the format, although their stage manager Amanda Ash will claim the pair has never stuck to the structure on the night.

THE ESSENTIALS

What: Sense and Spontaneity

Where: Circus Theatre, Fringe Central

When: February 21 to 25

Tickets: www.fringeworld.com.au