When you cross a truly unique set (Scenic Design by W. Scott MacConnell, who did a great job creating a post office/cabaret hybrid) & light show (designed by James Clement & technically executed by Dave Nicholson) with musical direction on keyboards by Holly Arsenault, & Ken Fornetran on Saxophone & then let Martha Irving go to town with her magical conversions of a bunch of random letters into song, you get a stage that absolutely beams of enthusiasm & starshine!
Martha Irving (Director of the musical Anne & Gilbert for 5 years) began her career at Victoria Playhouse in Barefoot in the Park in 1977 & returned last year to star in Sexy Laundry. This year, from August 6 to September 4, she owns the stage as a charming postal worker with a lovely French Canadian accent named Marie-Louise (whose raison d’être, she admits during the show, is her service to her post office), a role she originated at Ship’s Company Theatre in Parrsboro, NS, in this dynamic one-woman show by Playwright Tomson Highway (who is the recipient of 10 honorary doctorates & is a member of the Order of Canada, today enjoying an international career as a playwright, novelist, pianist, composer, & songwriter). In The Postmistress, Irving is quick on her feet, hitting all the notes in a variety of catchy tunes from both of Canada’s official languages (the soundtrack album of The (Post) Mistress, received a Juno Award in 2015 for Aboriginal Album of the Year), & taking the audience to school in terms of comedic timing. She also makes very effective use of props.
In many songs she was shelling out the dirt on residential gossip, but nonetheless remains a class act the whole way through. Most of the numbers required a delicate balance of sentimentality, phrasing, & punch-line ad libs (usually with a nudge & a wink) & she was very impressive. I thought the story she told about her younger days in Buenos Aires was just adorable. Director Catherine O’Brien (who is also playing the role of Rachel Lynde in this season’s production of Anne & Gilbert at The Guild), who has demonstrated her talents as an actress & vocalist on many occasions over the years must no doubt be very proud of this performance.
I’m sure the collective abundance of theatrical experience between everyone involved had a lot to do with the seamless flow of a range of emotions from sadness, to madness, to seduction, to utter silliness (sometimes even bordering on going absolutely postal), & huge rounds of applause were definitely not in short supply. Unless you find the thought of listening to a French-Canadian accent for a couple of hours annoying there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have a great time watching Martha Irving strutting her stuff. If you can get a ticket (ticket info @ http://victoriaplayhouse.com/tickets/ ) to this feel-good, must-see PEI theatre event, it’s well worth the drive out to Victoria.