Promise and PromiscuityAfter a 15 minute delay wherein the sound crew dealt with a raft of technical problems Penny Ashton re-commenced her show with aplomb.

In fact she has probably secured her career for life with this brilliantly scripted musical play. All over the world there are Jane Austen Societies dedicated to the reading and discussion of works by the redoubtable Miss Austen. Miss Ashton would be an instant hit with these devoted readers any time she chose to drop by. Meanwhile less analytical audiences such as the one tonight at the Perth Fringe Festival, will still derive considerable pleasure from this marvellous one woman show.

Ashton is a consummate performer. She has honed the characters superbly with an extraordinary range of facial expressions, gestures, stance and amazingly different voices.

Following a close parallel to the storyline of Pride and Prejudice, she weaves a pacey narrative switching characters with lightning speed.

Elspeth, the bookish Miss Slowtree is the main protagonist. Her tiresome matchmaking mother and frivolous younger sister, Cordelia are ensconced in genteel poverty. Secretly Elspeth has been writing laddish piratical fiction under the nom de plume Wilbur Smythe.

The script is cleverly littered with modern references such as these, wooing the audience into the joke. Some choice examples were the manners expert Kimberlaine Kardashian and the extremely wealthy Donald Trumplstilskin. Along the way we are introduced to a raft of other characters; snobbish gentry, eligible and not so eligible bachelors, a sourly priggish female rival, a snorting cousin and more.

There is even scope for audience participation with formal dance at the much mentioned balls. These come in a variety of sizes. Mildly risqué observations delivered with perfect Regency manners. The songs are tuneful and apt, composed by another New Zealander, Robbie Ellis with lyrics by Penny Ashton.

Just as Ashton rose gracefully above the technical problems she cleverly ad-libbed to reference outside crowd noise and a couple of other minor intrusions to the proceedings.

This is an extremely neatly penned concoction, very well acted and excellently staged. As they say, “It deserves to run and run.”

Penash Productions presents
Promise and Promiscuity
A New Musical by Jane Austen and Penny Ashton

Venue: Teatro 2 - The Pleasure Garden | The Pleasure Garden, James Street, Northbridge, WA
Dates: 29 Jan – 3 Feb 2015

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