Austen vs Ashton - NZ's Penny Ashton is back with "Promise and Promiscuity"   17 Sep 2017

Penny Ashton


In 2016 all my Jane Austen dreams came true when I married my own personal Mr Darcy. I say that not because he had a universally acknowledged good fortune, but because I thought he was stuck up when we met. He thought I looked a miserable cow too so First Impressions (as Pride and Prejudice was initially called) can be misleadingly vexatious. Or bollocks.

As I prepare for my first ever UK and Irish tour of my own solo Jane Austen musical, Promise and Promiscuity, thoughts therefore lead to how an Austenian nuptial and an Ashton one differs, ever so slightly.

The Proposal

In Austen times a woman’s lot was to simper in the corner, pinching her cheeks and hoping her dance card would be filled in. Once she had danced with a man more than three times and he’d seen a flash of ankle, the only decent thing to do was get hitched.

In Ashton times I asked Matt out, pinched his arse and declared him my boyfriend after he filled me in roughly three times. Six years later on a bridge in Paris he caved in to my many hints such as “So when are we bloody getting married?” and proposed with the gaudiest $2 shop ring you have ever seen. It looked like it had a herpes rash, and it was perfect.

The Planning

In Austen times a woman had been planning her wedding since she was a small child. (Unless she was a servant then she was too busy scrubbing mysterious marks out of bloomers and contemplating ever increasing inequality and looming pox to care.) Austenian ladies would no doubt have had a Hope Chest filled with crocheted kerchiefs, contemplating how nice it might be to vote and not be considered her husband’s chattels.

In Ashton times I did everything. Every. Thing. I spent a day deciding how to display table numbers then read The Bell Jar and How to be a Woman to exorcise the bridezilla away. I got a freaking Pinterest account and kept the courier man busy delivering petticoats from China, flowergirl hair garlands from the US and a sense of perspective from nowhere. Oh but I did have a magnificent hope chest, and quite frankly a stunning glory box.

The Dress

In Austen times lighter shade dresses were common to indicate purity and an intact virtue. They were floor length to prevent Uncle Stuffypants from fainting at the sight of an ankle, but pleasingly the bosom was often presented high.

In Ashton times I wore as many colours as I could to represent my obliterated virtue. And my bosoms weren’t as high as they used to be.

The Ceremony

In Austen times a priest would intone on God’s plan for a fecund life of squeezing out babies half of whom might die, and doing what your husband tells you.

In Ashton times we walked down the aisle to “Especially for You” all mention of imaginary sky friends was banned and we were excited about our barren future of disposable income and sneezing without needing incontinence knickers.

The Setting

In Austen times some English church would have thrilled to the tones of Jerusalem as two basic strangers walked nervously down the aisle while it chucked it down raining outside.

In Ashton times we got married in a garden in Auckland New Zealand basking in 26 degrees. A dirty colonial and her rustic Northern Yorkshire lad, enjoying being free of both the shackles of class expectation and from freezing our nethers off in a stiff artic blast.

The Wedding Night

In Austen times this was when a man showed his wife all he had learned at public school and from touring the continent.

In Ashton times it was distinctly more Bronte in flavour. I had two hours sleep as I actually had the flu through my whole wedding and was throwing up and crying all night. I tell you this to warn all future brides; stock up on vitamins and sleeping pills before you get hitched. But most importantly pick a man who will hug you and fetch you ginger ale and tell you how much he loves you as he hears your insides become outsides through the toilet door. Love you Mr Harvey. x


Flushed by four years of success, from Edinburgh to Toronto to Auckland, comes New Zealander Penny Ashton’s collaboration with Jane Austen (deceased). Join Miss Elspeth as she battles literary snobbery, cousin Horatio’s digestions & her mother’s nerves, armed only with a blushing countenance, excellent ukulele skills & being quite bright, you know... for a girl. In this hilarious, one-(freakishly talented)-woman show, Penny tackles all of Austen’s characters with song, dance & appalling cross-stitching.

In this, the year of the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, celebrate her life with the 5th great niece of Austen’s own flirtation, Thomas Langlois Lefroy, in an irreverent yet fond reimagining of one of the world’s most beloved authors.

Promise and Promiscuity plays the UK and Ireland the following dates:

Oct 4 - CONGLETON - Clonter Opera Theatre,, 01260 224 514

Oct 5 - BIRMINGHAM - Old Joint Stock Theatre,, 0121 200 0946

Oct 6 - SHREWSBURY - Walker Theatre,, 01743 281281

Oct 10 - MILTON KEYNES - Stantonbury Theatre,, 01908 324466

Oct 12 - 14  - LONDON - Greenwich Theatre,, 020 8858 7755

Oct 16 - WINCHESTER - Theatre Royal,, 01962 840 440

Oct 18 - FAREHAM - Ashcroft Arts Centre,  Osborn Rd,, 01329 2231100

Oct 20 - NEW MILTON - Forest Arts Centre,,  01425 612393

Oct 26 - CANTERBURY - Canterbury Festival,, 01227 787787

Nov 2 - TRALEE - Siamsa Tíre -, 066 7123055

Nov 3 - KILLMALLOCK - Friar’s Gate Theatre,,  063 98727

Nov 9 - NENAGH - Nenagh Arts Cente,, 067 34400

Nov 10 - LIMERICK, Belltable,, 061 953400

Nov 15 - WINDMERE - Old Laundry Theatre,, 015394 40872


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