Theatre Review: Olive Copperbottom
By Charles Dickens & Penny Ashton, directed by Ben Crowder & Penny Ashton
Circa Theatre, Wellington, until May 27.
Having successfully lampooned the essence of Jane Austin's novels in her show Promise and Promiscuity, creator and performer Penny Ashton is back in town with a new musical comedy Olive Copperbottom, this time created from the works of Charles Dickens.
Often credited as being one of the greatest literary figures in the English language since William Shakespeare, Dickens created a wonderful array of wonderful characters through his numerous novels that Ashton has woven into a delightfully original story.
She has also captured beautifully the ambience of Dickens' Victorian world, providing her tale with many macabre twists and turns, not unlike many of Dickens' stories.
But in her own inimitable style, Ashton adds in much humour and clever wordplay, as well as several catchy songs. And of course, she has a great time with the names of the characters, from the main one, Olive Copperbottom, to a dozen more with names like Tommy Titbit, Mrs Sourtart and Mr Goodsort.
And being the consummate performer that she is, she acts them out incredibly well, differentiating each well, not only vocally, but with well-defined mannerisms and body language.
And although it is a wordy and complex story about the orphan Olive growing up in Victorian London, and the various strands interwoven into the piece become a little blurred at times, Ashton's energy, enthusiasm and full-on performance overcome these deficiencies.
Right from the start, when she bounds onto the stage and establishes with supreme confidence the main characters of her story, through to the end of the 90-minute show, her vitality and drive is relentless.
And the humour, subtle but clever, is infused throughout, complimenting the dark tale of Olive that finally has a successful conclusion.
And while it is Ashton's outstanding solo performance that is on show, credit must also be given to her director Ben Crowder for his input, and that of Robbie Ellis, for his musical compositions. It all adds up to a great and very satisfying evening's entertainment.