‘On a First Name Basis’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by September 16, 2017

‘On a First Name Basis’ is a delightful and hilarious play, written by Canada’s most produced playwright, Norm Foster. Like the respected director of this Harbour play, Peter Kirkwood, Norm worked on an early morning radio show for years. Good to see you are on the mend Peter, I heard it was the stress of Jarrod’s acting that caused your problem.

Having written more than 50 plays, Foster has had a Theatrical Festival in Ontario named after him, and he has recently been awarded an Officer in The Order of Canada.

This community theatre production is being presented by the Harbour Theatre Group at the Camelot Theatre, within the Mosman Park Memorial Hall, 16 Lochee Street in Mosman Park. This two-hander show is at the earlier time of 7.30 pm on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings until 23rd September. There are Sunday matinées at 2.00 pm on the 17th and 24th.

 

The scene is an author’s home in 1990.

The classy set is of a comfortable sitting room with pale green walls and blush-pink fabric, tub chairs. A contemporary style drinks cabinet was against one side wall, with an archway leading to the kitchen. There were two bookcases, one filled with reference books and the other with a large cross section of paperbacks. Against another wall was a flickering pot belly stove with mantelpiece above. The perfect props by Grace Hitchin.

On the walls hang three abstract oil paintings, in the style of Shelby McQuilkin.

 The lighting and sound operators were Rob Tagliaferri, Vanessa Gudgeon and Callum Hunter.

 

       The creative, but pedantic playwright, David Kilbride (Jarrod Buttery) has become very wealthy with so many of his books having been turned into films. He may be rich, but he has no tact nor developed any social skills. Then he comes to realise that although his intelligent and amicable housekeeper, Lucy Hopperstaad (Meredith Hunter) has worked for him for decades, he knows nothing about her – not even her first name. Lucy, however, knows her employer inside out.

       One evening, for the first time in all the years, they settle down for a good chat, and discover a great deal about each other.

 

It goes without saying that a play with two actors (a two-hander) is a major challenge, which few seasoned actors are willing to attempt. Success relies upon a well written dialogue that flows naturally, and with a strong chemistry between the actors. Then of course there is style of direction. Actors will always respond better to a warm caring director, one that they like and respect, so many congratulations to directors Peter Kirkwood and Nicola Bond, who have taken us from the impersonal ‘Mr and Miss’, to first names and onto warmth. Thanks to Stage Manager Tina Barker for taking over as assistant director at the last moment, and giving us one of this year’s finest plays.

Both Jarrod and Meredith lapped up the cleverly written dialogue, and presented it with perfect pace and subtlety. Throughout the play, there was a laugh a minute from the acerbic comments. I am sure many of the men in the audience will spot someone they know in this un-empathetic, chauvinistic playwright; I must admit I saw myself!

If you like Anthony Hopkins’ films, his character in two of them (they will remain nameless), will remind you of Mr Kilbride – no not ‘rugged’ Jarrod, more ‘Cute’ (see the play and agree). Well worth seeing. For once in a long time, the audience applause continued well after the final bow; even after the stage lights had dimmed, they begged for a curtain call. Perhaps on nights to come, the lighting operator and actors should prepare to come back on stage.

Very many congratulations on two amazing performances. Cancel ALL appointments and see this show.