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Penny Ashton: A tale of two nuptials

By | Published on Thursday 21 July 2016


If you were around at last year’s Fringe, you might have noticed the triumphant return to the Fringe of Ms Penny Ashton, following an absence of an interminably long decade. She took the Festival by storm with her Jane Austen inspired one person musical ‘Promise And Promiscuity’, garnering plaudits galore and winning lots of new fans, who will be glad to hear that she is bringing the show back for another run.
In the intervening time, though, she began a new adventure, when she got married back home in New Zealand… which had us wondering how that would compare to marriage, Austen style.

In March 2016 all my Jane Austen dreams came true when I married my own personal Mr Darcy. I say that not because he had a universally acknowledged good fortune, but because I thought he was stuck up when we met. He thought I looked a miserable bitch too so First Impressions (as ‘Pride And Prejudice’ was initially called) can be misleadingly vexatious. Or bollocks.

As I prepare for another season of my solo Jane Austen musical ‘Promise And Promiscuity’ at Assembly, thoughts therefore lead to how an Austenian nuptial and an Ashton one differ, ever so slightly.

The Proposal
In Austen times a woman’s lot was to simper coquettishly in the corner, pinching her cheeks and hoping her dance card would be filled in. Once she had danced with a man more than three times and he’d seen a flash of ankle, the only decent thing to do was get hitched.

In Ashton times I asked Matt out, pinched his arse and declared him my boyfriend after he filled me in roughly three times. Five years later on a bridge in Paris he caved in to my many hints – such as “So when are we bloody getting married?” – and proposed with the gaudiest $2 shop ring you have ever seen. It looked like it had a herpes rash, and it was perfect.

The Planning
In Austen times a woman had been planning her wedding since she was a small child (unless she was a servant, then she was too busy scrubbing skid marks out of bloomers and contemplating ever increasing inequality and looming pox to care). Austenian ladies would no doubt have had a Hope Chest filled with crocheted kerchiefs, and possibly contemplated how nice it might be to vote and not be considered their husband’s chattels.

In Ashton times I did everything. Every. Thing. I spent a day deciding how to display table numbers then read ‘The Bell Jar’ and ‘How To Be A Woman’ to douche the bridezilla away. I got a fucking Pinterest account and kept the courier man busy delivering petticoats from China, flower-girl hair garlands from the US and a sense of perspective from nowhere. Oh but I did have a magnificent hope chest, and quite frankly a stunning glory box.

The Dress
In Austen times lighter shade dresses were common to indicate purity and a hymen intacta. They were floor length to prevent Uncle Stuffypants from fainting at the sight of an ankle, but pleasingly the bosom was often presented high.

In Ashton times I wore as many colours as I could to represent my hymen obliterata. And my bosoms weren’t as high as they used to be.

The Ceremony
In Austen times a priest would intone on God’s plan for a fecund life of squirting out babies half of whom might die, and doing what your husband tells you.

In Ashton times we walked down the aisle to ‘Especially for You’, all mention of imaginary sky friends was banned, and I ruminated on a barren future of disposable income and sneezing without pissing myself.

The Wedding Night
In Austen times this was when a man showed his wife all he had learned at public school and from touring the continent.

In Ashton times it was distinctly more Bronte in flavour. I had two hours sleep, as I actually had the flu through my whole wedding and was throwing up and crying all night. I tell you this to warn all future brides; stock up on vitamins and sleeping pills before you get hitched. But most importantly, pick a man who will hug you and fetch you ginger ale and tell you how much he loves you as he hears your insides become outsides through the toilet door.

Love you Mr Harvey.

Penny performed ‘Promise And Promiscuity’ at Assembly George Square Theatre at Edinburgh Festival 2016.