(Disclaimer: I don't write reviews of literary works. I write non-reviews. That means, I tell you what the piece is like, what its appeal is and who would like it and who wouldn't. I find this more helpful than traditional reviews.)
How can I not be prejudiced in favour of this show? She's kiwi, she's indie, and she's doing a bloody one-woman Jane Austen musical. Am not I categorically obliged to support this?
When I learned that the score had been arranged and recorded specifically for the production, all potential for criticism went out the carriage window with my bonnet.
We decided to go to the show in costume, out of solidarity and a love of attention, and I gave her a copy of my book, which I hope she will read and thoroughly enjoy and pronounce publicly across the internet as a wondrous triumph.
But how was the show? you all ask. Well, it is something like the stage equivalent of a cross between Lost in Austen and The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, but with musical numbers and a good dash of Fringey, modern references and speculation about what may or may not have changed in 200 years.
I was a bit concerned by the title that it might be a lot more Fringey, in a rompy, raunchy sort of way, maybe the sexy, cabaret what-really-happened-at-Pemberly version of Pride and Prejudice, but fortunately it was not. Other than a few insinuations involving balls, it wasn't really scandalous at all.
Miss Ashton was excellent, questionable accents notwithstanding. She plays all the characters, each distinct and easily recognizable through physical and vocal cues. The story is her own, but draws very heavily on the plots of the novels, and a good portion of the dialogue is composed of Austen's own writing. There are characters similar to Austen's, like a Mrs. Bennet and a Lady Catherine and a Mr. Darcy, sort of, though they go by different names.
Promise and Promiscuity is a bit of Regency mash-up fun, neither completely farcical nor to be taken too seriously. It is not a musical of Pride and Prejudice. It is not an adaptation of any particular work. And it is not a wacky, how-weird-can-you-be desecration. So if you are looking for either of those things, you will not find it here. Instead, you will find an impressive performance of a pleasant and amusing show. It is on at the Edmonton Fringe until August 24.
Melanie Kerr is the author of Follies Past: a Prequel to Pride and Prejudice.
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