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March 5, 2007 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Flagons and Foxtrots

By Alison Quigan and Ross Gumbley
Directed by Alison Quigan
Downstage until March 17

Flagons and Foxtrots is the story of a night at the Taita dance hall in mid 60s New Zealand. The band, consisting of Pinkie (Kip Chapman), Archie (Kane Parsons) and Jack (Jamie McCaskill), dream of stardom, after getting highly commended at the Wainui Youth Talent Quest. The owner of the dance hall, Sid Jenkins won’t let them play at the hall tonight, despite the whining of daughter Jillian (Laurel Devenie), girlfriend of Jack. Rita’s (Kali Kopae) got a secret, and Auntie Ina’s (Geraldine Brophy) listening in. It’s a comic caper of misunderstandings, young (and old) love and growing up.

The real story is the love triangle between Rita, Jack and Gillian. Jack’s got Rita pregnant but somehow he’s ended up engaged to long term girlfriend Gillian. Unsurprisingly all is revealed and a cat fight ensues. This is the heart of the play, and I find it odd that such sensitive subject matter – an unmarried girl getting pregnant in conservative New Zealand and the consequences – is material for a comic play, that appears to look back on 1960s New Zealand with affection.

But of course, this is a Kiwi comedy, so happy endings are in order. And having said that, Flagons and Foxtrots, is on the whole, quite delightful. At times the show borders on melodrama (Gillian’s hysteria at being “left on the shelf” gets old very quickly), but the script is well written; sprinkled with nostalgic jokes (“rattle your dags”) and plenty of excuses for doing the twist, and singing “She’s a Mod”. It has a traditional two act structure, moving to a predictable yet enchanting climax. Kip Chapman steals the show (as he does with everything) with his witty and charming characterisation as the hapless Pinkie, just trying to be ‘one of the boys’ and ‘get a girl’. Geraldine Brophy is hilarious as Aunty Ina, the closet drinker, who manages to smooth everything over. Kali Kopae should be praised for playing Rita with heart, vulnerability and most importantly, a lot of balls.

Although my friend and I were almost the youngest people there, Flagons and Foxtrots, is definitely a feel-good experience that engages the audience directly at every opportunity, including pulling various members up on the stage to dance. Put on your dancing shoes and get ready to do the twist.


About the Author ()

Well hello there. Eleanor was the Theatre Editor in 2007, now she writes the Women's Column and just generally minces about the Salient office. Eleanor is currently an Honours student in Theatre (with a touch of gender). She also has a BCA in Marketing but she tries to keep that on the d-low (embarrassing, because she loves academic integrity and also perpetuating the myth that she's a tad bohemian). If you've got a gender agenda, woo her by taking her a BYO Malaysian. She lies, if you show any interest at all she'll probably tackle you in the street and force you to write a column.

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