WEDNESDAY, MAY 16: A First Name Basis should firstly be commending for its cracking script — there was a steady stream of laughter throughout the entire performance mixed with some light tears.
The play is about wealthy novelist David Kilbride who has become a recluse, performed by the comedy’s playwright Norm Foster.
One day he realises that he knows next to nothing about his maid of 28 years — not even her first name. So one night he decides to sit her down and have her reveal her darkest secrets to him.
While David admits his personality is not one that “jumps off the page”, his and his maid Lucy’s language positively leapt from it.
The class differences are cleverly defined throughout the dialogue — at one point she opens herself a bottle of his fine Chablis and instantly starts pouring it in the glass.
“You have to let the wine breathe!” shouts David to which she replies, “Let it breathe? I’m just about to give it mouth to mouth!”
He presses Lucy about the men she has had in her life, and when she reveals she had only been with two men in the past 28 years he remarks with barely a smile: “Two men in 28 years? Mensa isn’t even that selective.”
The delivery of this script was also excellent — David is rather a dry character and often responds to his maid’s verbose rants with simple one-word answers that completely disregard the most important information she had imparted.
There’s a fun power play between the two — he is wealthy, educated and employs her while she has the advantage of knowing everything about him.
Foster’s delivery was much more natural and realistic than Patricia Vanstone’s whose character was larger than life.
As a result the two characters didn’t always sit easily together.
For instance, every time David made a presumption about Lucy, she launched into wordy rant about how he probably only thinks that because she is lower class.
The repetition of these little outbursts at various points throughout added an almost panto-element to an otherwise straight comedy.
Regardless, the pair did make a great double act, bouncing insults and witty gibes off each other.
One thing that confused me a little was how a relatively uneducated maid such as Lucy could possess such poetic, lyrical and intelligent language. It is never really answered in the play.
Perhaps her unrequited love for “man number two” might have had something to do with it but it is never really explained — we just know she is a woman who enjoys stimulating conversation.
Anyone who enjoys language and word play would enjoy this play — the novelist is obsessed with language and his observations about words and phrases used in the conversation are highly entertaining. “It’s an interesting phrase ‘saw it with my own eyes’” he says.
“Well who else’s eyes are you going to see it with?”
The set was well put together and it was great to see part of the side wings being used as entrances to other rooms in the house as well — it added depth to the stage and made it look a lot bigger.
I’m not sure why a man of David’s standing would be listening to his “upper echelon” music on small iPod speakers though.
I think that there was potential for a little more pathos in A First Name Basis.
For the most part the play was funny but certain parts of the plot lent themselves to exploring deeper, darker emotions.
It could probably benefit from a few cuts here and there — a two hour play set in one room between two people can be taxing even with the best script.
However, sex, death, marriage and class are all discussed in great detail and it certainly leaves you questioning life and your purpose on this earth.
I sincerely hope that Foster will return to Bermuda with his clever comedies not too far in the future.Where: The Daylesford Theatre
When: Until May 19
Tickets: $30 Daylesford Theatre box office will be open on: May 9 to 13 from 5:30pm to 7pm (weekdays only) and 7pm to 8pm on performance nights.
Phone bookings during box office hours only can be made on 292-0848.
Tickets also available online at www.bmds.bm outside box office hours from the May 9.