‘Olive Copperbottom’ coming to Taipa
On the phone from a cold and windy Christchurch, Kiwi writer, actress, dancer and singer Penny Ashton says she is glad to be bringing her upcoming onewoman show Olive Copperbottom, co-authored with Charles Dickens, to the Taipa Rea Resort on Friday May 11.
She loves our Northland beaches, and certainly appreciates the milder weather that makes them enjoyable, even in winter. Growing up in Christchurch, she is used to harsher climes.
Penny describes her show as a tribute in the style of Dickens, incorporating new stories and characters, 15 in all, covering the gamut of Victorian society. She says the social commentary in Dickens’ novels, with themes of poverty, unfairness and the fight against evil and corruption, are still relevant. An ardent feminist, she particularly enjoys his strong female roles.
A knowledge of Dickens is not necessary to follow the show, but fans will recognise direct quotations, focusing on Dickens’ humour, which so leavens his sometimes grim tales. She describes it as certificate PG13 because of the humorous innuendo. The oratory is interspersed with songs to music recorded by Robbie Ellis in Christchurch.
Her costumes are gorgeous, fabrics sourced by Penny, made up by Elizabeth Whiting (costume-maker to New Zealand Opera), including Penny’s own repurposed wedding dress. Certainly not a conventional meringue!
Penny expresses differences between characters chiefly with her physicality and voice, and perhaps a few authentic props, such as a gin bottle.
She says she has been a performer since the age of 4, starting with ballet lessons, then drama at school. She does not come from a performing lineage however, unless her dad’s enthusiastic ownership of a karaoke machine counts. She has a degree in drama from the University of Canterbury, but describes the course as mostly theoretical.
Her early experiences in conventional acting jobs (she had a stint as a doctor in Shortland Street early in the millennium) taught her that if you sit and wait for opportunities to be offered then you wait a very long time. Thus, after some collaborative improvisational work, she began devising her own solo shows.
She has toured various shows in New Zealand, Canada and the UK, appearing at the Edinburgh Festival four times.
She also regularly attends the International Buskers’ Festival in Christchurch, and won this year’s Best Indoor Show category.
She has always been an avid watcher of period drama on television, which inspired a previous show, Promise and Promiscuity, based on the novels of Jane Austen. Following her successful tour of that show she devised Olive Copperbottom, based on Dickens, as a natural successor.
Penny says she loves touring throughout her home country, and is heartened by the warm Kiwi welcome she receives.
Tickets for the Taipa show are available at Taipa Rea Resort and Essentially Flowers in Kaitaia.
TEA FOR ONE: Penny Ashton is bringing her one-woman show to Taipa.