‘Jane of all trades’ set for Austen fes­ti­val

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS ETHERIDGE

Penny Ash­ton is con­fessed ‘‘Jane trades’’.

The San­dring­ham come­di­enne and ac­tress will per­form three dif­fer­ent shows at the New Zealand In­ter­na­tional Com­edy Fes­ti­val next month, host an Auck­land Read­ers and Writers Fes­ti­val gig, head off on a 30-date New Zealand tour, per­form in Canada ‘‘and most ex­cit­ingly’’ head to the Jane Austen Fes­ti­val in Bath, Eng­land, in Septem­ber.

Ash­ton says the par­ty­ing will be taken down a notch or two down dur­ing the whop­ping 73-show trek across three coun­tries.

‘‘You just have to be a bit el­derly about ‘party-hard’. I just have to rest my voice, not drink very much. It’s re­ally an­noy­ing be­cause all the fun stuff screws your voice.’’

Ash­ton’s very dis­tant rel­a­tive Thomas Lan­glois Le­froy was ru­moured to be Austen’s lover, so per­form­ing at the Septem­ber fes­ti­val will be spe­cial.

Cre­at­ing and per­form­ing the family friendly mu­si­cal Prom­ise and Promis­cu­ity, in­spired by the lit­er­ary icon’s works, was co­in­ci­dence.

‘‘I don’t feel any great con­nec­tion to her, how­ever it is pretty awe­some,’’ Ash­ton says.

Austen’s fans ‘‘ take it very se­ri­ously, so I will be un­der much scru­tiny’’ at the festi- a of self

all val, she says. ‘‘ But it seems I do man­age to en­ter­tain the ra­bid fans as much as those who know noth­ing.

‘‘Jane Austen has this re­ally wide ap­peal, which is pleas­ing when you’re do­ing shows about it. You get the 70-year-old ladies, but then there are lots of 16, 17 and 18-year-old girls – and some guys,’’ Ash­ton says.

‘‘You don’t ac­tu­ally have to know Jane Austen to get the show. There are enough balls jokes to keep ev­ery­one en­ter­tained. There’s quite a lot of in­nu­endo, ‘I do hope you have a spot on your dance card I can slot into’, things like that.’’

And there are plenty of Austen in-jokes for diehard fans.

Ash­ton per­forms in Prom­ise and Promis­cu­ity, Oliver Twisted: An Im­pro­vised Mu­si­cal and Sex, Lies and Im­pro­vise in the NZ In­ter­na­tional Com­edy Fes­ti­val, and hosts Po­etry Idol in the read­ers and writers’ fes­ti­val in May.

Photo: JESS ETHERIDGE

Funny lady: Penny Ash­ton is em­bark­ing on a 73-show trek across three coun­tries, wind­ing up at the Jane Austen Fes­ti­val in Eng­land in Septem­ber. Go to auck­land­c­i­ty­har­bour news.co.nz and click Lat­est Edi­tion to watch a pre­view of Penny Ash­ton’s Prom­ise and Promis­cu­ity.

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