Martha Irving and Lee J. Campbell in ‘On A First Name Basis’ at the Playhouse
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.”
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.
Rob MacLean, director and Melissa Mullen, associate director, take a break from rehearsals for the Victoria Playhouse production of “On A First Name Basis”.