Promise and Promiscuity review at Greenwich Theatre, London – ‘predictable Austen pastiche’

Penny Ashton in Promise and Promiscuity at Greenwich Theatre, London Penny Ashton in Promise and Promiscuity at Greenwich Theatre, London
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New Zealand performer Penny Ashton has a personal connection with the lady on the new £10 note, being a fifth great niece of Jane Austen’s one-time beau Tom Lefroy.

Her one-woman show Promise and Promiscuity leaves little doubt as to her affection for Austen but it isn’t outrageous enough to be subversive and the nudge-nudge-wink-wink style (with “balls” dropped at every opportunity) has the feel of an Austen-themed hen party, in which anyone not swept away by the jollity runs the risk of being a Fanny Price spoiling everyone else’s fun by telling tales to Sir Thomas.

Elspeth Slowtree is blessed with a fussing mother, a flighty younger sister and various suitors, as well as a burgeoning literary career under an assumed name.

Austen bons-mots (digestively-challenged Cousin Horatio’s proposal is lifted straight from Mr Collins) are mixed with groan-worthy references to the likes of Trump, the Kardashians and Fifty Shades of Grey. The musical element of the show consists mainly of popular classical pieces with original lyrics.

Ashton is a gifted voice artist who clearly differentiates each character and she dons a bonnet with great enthusiasm but in the unnecessary interval, the sound of the catchy theme tune from the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice unfortunately serves as reminder that a more fulfilling evening could be spent at home with the DVDs or, more edifyingly still, the novels themselves.

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Frustratingly predictable slapstick Austen pastiche enlivened by Penny Ashton's vocal dexterity.