‘Olive Cop­per­bot­tom’ com­ing to Taipa

The Northland Age - - Local News - By Lois Stather-Dunn

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.

PIC­TURE / SUP­PLIED

TEA FOR ONE: Penny Ash­ton is bring­ing her one-woman show to Taipa.

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