TO­GETHER AGAIN

Martha Irv­ing and Lee J. Camp­bell in ‘On A First Name Ba­sis’ at the Play­house

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE ISLAND - BY SALLY COLE sally.cole@The­Guardian.pe.ca Twit­ter.com/Sal­lyForth57

Martha Irv­ing, Lee J. Camp­bell re­united in ‘On A First Name Ba­sis’ at the Vic­to­ria Play­house

When Martha Irv­ing and Lee J. Camp­bell last shared the stage to­gether, they played char­ac­ters with dif­fer­ent so­cial stand­ings.

Irv­ing por­trayed Mrs. Alv­ing, the el­e­gant lady of the house, while Camp­bell played Engstrand, her con­niv­ing grounds keeper, in Lu­naSea Theatre’s pro­duc­tion of “Ghosts”.

“He was a bit of a repro­bate, not a charm­ing in­di­vid­ual,” says Camp­bell, with a laugh.

So, when he was cast as spy nov­el­ist David Kil­bride in the Vic­to­ria Play­house pro­duc­tion of “On A First Name Ba­sis” and Irv­ing was cast as Lucy Hop­per­staad this past spring, they were sur­prised to dis­cover that their roles have been re­versed.

“This sum­mer, she’s my hired help,” says Camp­bell, with an­other laugh.

In fact their new roles have be­come a source of ri­valry for them.

“You’re en­joy­ing that, aren’t you?” says Irv­ing, with a smile.

“Yes, es­pe­cially get­ting to lord it over you. Some­times (the class strug­gle) is real. Other times it’s a game that we both en­joy play­ing,” says Camp­bell of the plenty-of-laughs com­edy that hits the boards of Vic­to­ria Play­house Aug. 5.

Writ­ten by Cana­dian play­wright Norm Foster, “On A First Name Ba­sis” is about a suc­cess­ful nov­el­ist with writer’s block who has just re­ceived some dev­as­tat­ing news he’s keep­ing to him­self.

In turn, Ms. Lucy Hop­per­staad, his house­keeper of 28 years, has her own se­cret that she’s afraid to ad­mit.

As she gets ready to end her shift, Kil­bride in­vites her to stay and have a drink, cu­ri­ous about the woman who’s been tend­ing to his house all these years. But as the night sets in and the drinks start to flow, se­crets re­veal them­selves, for bet­ter or worse.

The play has given Camp­bell plenty of in­sights into re­la­tion­ships that cross class lines.

“If you are the one on top, you’re usu­ally happy with the sta­tus quo. But if you’re the ser­vant, one of your ma­jor pur­poses is to un­der­mine that re­la­tion­ship and twist it to your own ben­e­fit,” he says.

It’s also given Irv­ing com­fort in know­ing she’s play­ing op­po­site an old friend.

“It’s won­der­ful, es­pe­cially with a short re­hearsal, to work with some­one you know well. There’s a trust,” she says.

How­ever, the flip side is, “we tease each other mer­ci­lessly be­cause we have his­tory.”

Watch­ing the two sea­soned ac­tors fully in­habit their roles is re­ward­ing for Rob MacLean, the show’s di­rec­tor.

“They have great chem­istry. These are a cou­ple of peo­ple who have worked to­gether so they have an ease, which trans­lates (to the stage). And you be­lieve it.”

And while Irv­ing doesn’t be­lieve in giv­ing any se­crets of the show away, she does of­fers a hint.

“It’s ba­si­cally about two peo­ple get­ting to know each other bet­ter.”

SALLY COLE/THE GUARDIAN

Lucy Hop­per­staad (Martha Irv­ing) and David Kil­bride (Lee J. Camp­bell) ap­pear in a re­hearsal scene from “On A First Name Ba­sis”. The Norm Foster com­edy plays Aug. 5-Sept. 3 at Vic­to­ria Play­house in Vic­to­ria.

SALLY COLE/THE GUARDIAN

Rob MacLean, di­rec­tor and Melissa Mullen, as­so­ci­ate di­rec­tor, take a break from re­hearsals for the Vic­to­ria Play­house pro­duc­tion of “On A First Name Ba­sis”.

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