Reviews - Fringe 2019

Promise and Promiscuity: A New Musical by Jane Austen and Penny Ashton

By Alison Nicholson
Published August 06, 2019


From her pink hose to the little snort of her nose, Miss Elspeth, played by New Zealander Penny Ashton, is sheer delight. As an adoring fan of Jane Austin, Promise and Promiscuity is a confection, not at all blanc mange but a sumptuous tea cake. There were more than a few fans attending her sold-out performances on the mainstage of The Staircase Theatre.

This production is a jaunt through the pages of Austen, with an Ashton twist, both women weaving in and out a well written script, which at times was too much about a witty phrase. Music is also adapted into the script, blending humorous lyrics, were not her own, with well-known tunes. What can't this woman do with her face and a teacup?

The set, a Regency style drawing room, replete with laced draped writing table, feathered quill and indoor shrubbery. Gleaned from the pages of Austen's novels, the audience is transported to the Darcys at Pemberley Manor. Penny recreates the moving scene we all remember from Sense and Sensibility, with Kate Winslet playing Marianne as she wanders the hills in a terrible storm.

A multi-talented performer, Ashton takes on a cast of characters with barely a breath between and cavorts, glowers, grimaces, glides, and gallops. Stepping into the audience, Ashton chooses a partner and performs a choreographed gavotte with an audience partner, which brought the house down.

Whether a fan of Austen of not, you will not want to miss this very polished and gleaming production. It's a gem of a show and one of a trio of great performances where the women dominate the main stage at The Staircase.

Alison recently wrote and performed, "Love, Loss and the shit in between" for Mind Play at the Staircase, Main Stage and has performed stand-up sketches for the Hammer First Timers at 'Zylas'. Acting credits include; "The Importance of Being Ernest," "Cakewalk," "Top Girls," "She Stoops to Conquer," "The Maids," and directed; "The Rivals," and "The House of Bernarda Alba." Alison directed "Der Zug" for the Hamilton Fringe written by Valerie Kay. The Pearl produced Alison's first original play "A Certain Slant of Light," directed by Annalee Flint. Alison reviewed the Fringe Gallery performances for the Hub in 2018. Alison's first Fringe experience was in Edinburgh, as lighting tech for the San Quentin Drama Workshop from the US. A graduate of McMaster University, Drama, Emmanuel College, U of T, and Niagara College school of technical theatre.

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