Victoria Fringe Festival 2017 – Olive Copperbottom: A New Musical by Charles Dickens and Penny Ashton

Review by Tony Carter – Staff Writer

September 1, 2017

Oliver Copperbottom is everything that a comedic Charles Dickens story needs to be, with a satirical edge to boot.

As if elaborating on the formula Mark Hughes puts forward in his own Fringe show, Penny Ashton’s latest project seems based on the premise that tragedy + the fast forward = comedy, with some gut-busting results. Most stories that feature a nine year-olds mother dying in the first five minutes would probably stay fast to drama, but through Ashton’s comic timing, acting, and over-acting the scene is made patently ridiculous— just like the rest of the show.

The story follows the quickly orphaned Olive Copperbottom and an ensemble of colourful characters who are all played by Ashton. Their names are both absurd and entirely appropriate for a Dickens story (heroic paramour Edward Goodsort, prostitute with a heart of gold Fanny Purchase, and nasty matron Missus Sourtart to name just a few), and Ashton doesn’t miss a beat swapping from character to character, even when more than two of them are in the scene at once.

The humour involves witty plays on words as much as it does low-brow jibes, Dickens references, and political satire about the treatment of women, classism, and the biggest target in Washington (at least half of the time). Whatever your preferred style of comedy, there will probably be something here for you. The story does take a particularly dark turn in the final act, one that it doesn’t fully recover its footing from before the denouement.

Bottom Line

Penny Ashton is her own form of triple threat in Olive Copperbottom, with writing, singing, and acting that is guaranteed to make you laugh. Make sure you don’t miss her and her “favourite purple strap-on instrument” at the Victoria 2017 Fringe Festival.


Olive Copperbottom: A New Musical by Charles Dickens and Penny Ashton

Penash Productions

Created by Penny Ashton & Charles Dickens

Victoria Fringe Festival

Venue 3 (Metro Studio Theatre)

  • Aug 31 @ 9:30pm
  • Sept 2 @ 6:30pm
  • Sept 3 @ 3:15pm

Tickets: All seats $11

A hilarious triple threat
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