Review: Promise & Promiscuity

Reviewer Elizabeth Bouman
Reviewer Elizabeth Bouman
The name Jane Austen will never again evoke genuine thoughts of genteel Regency etiquette, decorum and desirable but unobtainable suitors.

Promise & Promiscuity
Playhouse Theatre
Wednesday, October 15

Penny Ashton changed all that for me and the very receptive capacity audience at the Playhouse last night as her one-woman musical parody delivered a bounty of unchaperoned parallels of reference to Austen, through nine character cameos.

Promise and Promiscuity, a light-hearted cavort written by Ashton, has music by Robbie Ellis, much of it reworked classics with apologies to Beethoven, Strauss and others.

Mrs Slowtree has delusions of grandeur far above her place in society, especially in the matter of marriage for two daughters, Cordelia and Elspeth, the latter a writer with the male pseudonym Wilbur Smythe and at age two-and-twenty still husbandless.

Familiarity with Austen's novels enhances appreciation but is not essential as Aston frolics her pathway through her characters' desires and aspirations, particularly the romantic encounters of the Misses Slowtree.

Lady Wrexham and her son Reginald, Digby Dalton and others are outstandingly portrayed, with ingenious parallels to 21st century, such as Elvis Prestwick and the contemporary understanding of the word ''gay''.

Naughtiness, innuendos and double entendres are all there, and considering a lot of the action takes place at Little Cox Cottage, it is not surprising that one young lady remarks on her enjoyment of formal dances: ''Oh, how I love balls!'' In fact, there are several references to ''balls'' of various sizes and subtle concepts of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Everything from lovely little lisps (''Cousin Weginald'') to frightfully upper-class toffy-talk was delivered by Ashton, whose compendium of facial contortions and voice types flawlessly negotiated rapid character changes.

Promise and Promiscuity is a triumph of delightful satire and a show not to be missed.

- Reviewed by Elizabeth Bouman

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