A Regency romance pop-culture musical mash-up full of double entendres and cheeky fun, Promise and Promiscuity will please both Janeites and Jane-whos?.
New Zealand actor/writer/comedien Penny Ashton writes and stars in this one-woman show and wraps the audience around her finger with a sly wink of her eye. Promise and Promiscuity is the story of Elspeth Slowtree, an intelligent woman who dreams of marrying a man who doesn’t want a wife with the intellect of a cabbage.
Along the way we meet Elspeth’s dotty mother and spirited sister, along with suitors, awful society women, and a lucky audience member who gets to join in on the fun. An irreverently modern take on 19th-century gender roles, Elvis Presley as poetry and the wonder of balls, Promise and Promiscuity is a lark.
Bronwyn Elsmore - Theatreview.org.nz'In fact, despite the fun poked at the foibles of middle-class English Regency values, this is a show you can take your daughter or grandmother to; the only F word uttered at Little Cocks Cottage is Fiddlesticks...'open/close
On the way to the theatre I ask myself why on earth I am going to a play that threatens to ruin the reputation of Jane Austen, and I wait with breathless anticipation for my answer. The truth, I am forced to confess, is that the most accomplished and highly esteemed Author's name has, for me, already been reduced in my estimation since reading a novel called Jane Bites Back, in which Jane reappears in present time as a vampire. Dear Reader, I further confess, I found it very funny.
Apparently, in these times and climes, Miss Austen is regarded as fair game – or perhaps it is the Regency values and vanities her novels address that cannot resist revision.
So it is with a mixture of prejudice, sensibility and anticipation that I, accompanied by a most accomplished friend, find myself in attendance at Promise and Promiscuity, billed as a new musical by Jane Austen and Penny Ashton.
From the beginning and throughout the 70 minute show, comedienne Penny Ashton, the “Writer /Performer /Publicist /Producer /Production Designer /Conceptualiser /Bonnetter” of the production proves to be well up to all the roles – not only those to do with the production, but onstage where she plays two handfuls of characters.
Central is Miss Elspeth Slowtree (aka writer Wilbur Smythe, author of Fifty Shades of Arrgh), surrounded by her marriage-obsessed mother and simpering sister as they interact with the class-conscious Lady Wrexham and her son Reginald, the supercilious Digby Dalton, desperate cousin Thomasina, the repulsive cousin Horatio, and even the servant Brownlie. After their first introductions, Penny Ashton's portrayal of each doesn't falter, and in every conversation there's no doubt which one is speaking.
And what conversations there are, full of double-entendres that give full and hilarious consideration of spinsterhood, tight breeches and balls – the dancing sort, you will be reminded and reassured. In fact, despite the fun poked at the foibles of middle-class English Regency values, this is a show you can take your daughter or grandmother to; the only F word uttered at Little Cocks Cottage is Fiddlesticks.
The gowned and bonnetted Miss Ashton reveals herself as not only a most accomplished actor, but a singer and dancer of some talent also. The songs need to be listened to with care. for the lyrics – as with the dialogue throughout – are replete with inventive use of purloined lines from a variety of contemporary sources, and comments on present-day situations.
If Penny Ashton is the undoubted star of the show, her indebtedness to several others is clear, particularly Ben Crowder for direction and Robbie Ellis for music arrangements.
Promise and Promiscuity is a fast-paced romp that entertains from the opening scene to the hilarious final bow from each of the characters in turn.
There's universal appreciation from the full audience on opening night, and deservedly so – the show rates a full house for the rest of its run.
Kate Black - Edmontonfringe.ca'4 Stars - The audience is putty in Penny Ashton's hands as she flaunts dirty double-entendres and witty musical numbers (ie Beethoven mashed up with Bon Jovi)... 'open/close
Fringe performers take note: this is how you do a one-man show.
New Zealand's Penny Ashton dazzles in her performance of eight-or-so distinct characters, expertly telling the story of regency-era Elspeth Slowtree falling in love and fighting the literary patriarchy.
Though set two-hundred years ago, the performance is anything but stale. The audience is putty in Penny Ashton's hands as she flaunts dirty double-entendres and witty musical numbers (ie Beethoven mashed up with Bon Jovi).
Don't let the literary title scare you away—knowing anything about Jane Austen probably just comes as a bonus.
If you enjoy cultural mash-ups, fan fiction, 80s pop songs, rollicking romances and ludicrous puns, then get on your trusty steed and charge down to the Herald Theatre to check out Promise and Promiscuity, a new musical by Jane Austen and Penny Ashton.
Liberally splattered with Austen quotes and pop culture references, the swashbuckling tale tells the story of sisters Elspeth and Cordelia Slowtree, their attendance at a rather large ball, and their mother's attempts to marry them off.
Unfortunately Elspeth's more interested in smutty pirate fan fiction than in unsuitable suitors, and her boisterous sister refuses to settle for anything less than true love.
Ashton plays all the characters including show pony Reginald, proud and prejudiced Digby, the revolting cousin Horatio and condescending socialite Thomasina. Her excellent characterisations and her ability to crack herself up make her a delight to watch.
Kelly Stifora - CBC.ca'5 Stars - She wrote the script, which is packed with cheekily clever wordplay and double entendres, but is also genuinely moving in making its point with Eslpeth's story. All in all, Promise and Promiscuity is a textbook example of how to do a great one woman show...'open/close
New Zealander Penny Ashton is a delight to behold in this one-woman pastiche of Jane Austen and modern culture, and you'll be delighted whether or not you know your Bennets from your Dashwoods.
All you need know is that Elspeth Slowtree dreams of intellectual as well as romantic fulfillment, but the society of Winnipegshire conspires to deny her the former and dictate the latter. Plus there's musical numbers.
Ashton will make sure you get the rest. She plays eight characters (I might be missing someone), each with distinctive voices and mannerisms. She sings, accompanied by flawlessly executed music composed and produced by Robbie Ellis that mashes up classical pieces and modern hits ("Beethoven's Fifth Symphony" and "You Give Love a Bad Name," for example). She dances and flows around the stage for 90 minutes, almost never leaving the audience's sight, and never once letting go of its attention.
She also wrote the script, which is packed with cheekily clever wordplay and double entendres, but is also genuinely moving in making its point with Eslpeth's story.
All in all, Promise and Promiscuity is a textbook example of how to do a great one woman show.
Promise and Promiscuity is simply a wonderful production. This one-woman musical is full of laughs, clever remixes of musical hits through the ages and double entendres, especially involving the word balls. Not being a fan of Victorian era writing, I was expecting to be bored.
How wrong I was.
This exceedingly clever satire shines its comedic light on the many differences and similarities between our time and the Victorian era. No area is left out: capitalism, feminism, classism, romance, music, art, and marriage. Each made into song and poked fun at. Vancouvershire is woven into the story with many references made to its locale, ensuring we know just how close to home this piece is, even though it is set 200 years before now.
The only person I’d suggest miss this show is one whose belief in the sanctity of Victorian literature precludes their sense of humor.
In Rangi Ruru's 125th year, it is thrilling to have some luminary Old Girls return to grace the stage of their old high school. Ali Harper's Bombshells, in October last year was a sell-out success, and Anne Chamberlain's Eglantyne, scheduled for May, promises to be a powerful homage to another courageous and revolutionary woman, Eglantyne Jebb. So, Penny Ashton finds herself in fine company among her stellar alumna and it is with great relish that she struts, preens, and pouts her way through what is a lightening-paced and riotous parody.
Promise and Promiscuity, as a self-penned poke at Pride and Prejudice, is the perfect vehicle for an actress at the height of her power, for Penny Ashton is a virtuosa of rare skill. The stage is littered with a clutch of characters, each made manifest by sublime physicality and dexterous facial contortions that keep the audience whooping in delight and recognition.
Every character is a lesson in human nature and study societal snobbery. The lemon-lipped Lady Wrexham and her withering son Reginald, the dashing Digby Dalton, the lisping Thomasina, and the suppurating horror that is Horatio have us all sniggering at the frivolities and mindlessness of the middle-class.
However it is as the central character, Elspeth Slowtree, that Penny Ashton shows us her real acting chops. Elspeth's passion for writing, her hopes, dreams, failures, and triumphs are all played with understated sensitivity that balances beautifully against the other broader comic characters.
Ashton's own writing is razor sharp and she manages to weave literary witticism with acerbic satire, and musical mirth with dollops of double entendre.
Watching each character take a bow at the rapturous curtain call reminds us of the awesomeness that is Penny Ashton. Witness this gem at NZ International Comedy Festival in May, or the nation-wide tour in June and July. Fan of Jane Austen or not, Promise and Promiscuity is a theatrical treat not to be missed.
Penny Ashton presents a clever and cheeky take on a Jane Austen inspired musical titled Promise and Promiscuity.
I must admit I’m not one to attend and enjoy plays, I pretend that musicals are strictly reserved for the box. My thoughts are that if I walked out of a musical I would be singing my way out the doors and be infected with catchy tunes for the following week. But that’s only an excuse to avoid painstakingly long hours of selecting shows and finding friends to go with me, so yeah, I’m hugely indecisive and lazy. However Ashton’s fun adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice was enticing. I was curious to see how these classics would be comically portrayed and I wanted to know just how freaky it can get, safe to say I was not disappointed.
Ashton tells a tale of a young talented writer stuck between her passion for literature and her mother’s obsession to find her a suitor. A career driven protagonist battling crazies around her in an ultra-pink environment and remaining surprisingly sane. What follows the introduction of a poor widow and her two daughters is hilarious horseplay and well rehearsed puns.
I am both surprised and deeply impressed with Ashton’s talents, not only is she a writer and performer but she states that she is a ‘Publicist/Producer/Production Design/Concept/Bonnetter’ – Oh what a mouthful. She brilliantly modified a tale of an early Romantic era amalgamating Austen’s novels and combining it with contemporary nonsense. Her performance was captivating, it was witty, clever, energetic and near perfect (all in old English too). Her performance and timing with the technician was impeccable and she is pleasant to listen to while singing.
Drop what you’re doing and go see the show. If you’re a Jane Austen fan you won’t be unimpressed and if you’re not familiar with her works, it’s okay, there are plenty of innuendos to keep you entertained. So hop on board and enjoy a journey to see one woman play the role of many…