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September 7, 2009 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Four Flat Whites in Italy


You know what you’re getting with Roger Hall. He is an institution, a figure that looms large over New Zealand theatre. He is almost his own genre—a sly mix of topical humour with low key melodrama. He knows his audience and, well, therein lies a problem for me reviewing this. The majority of Salient readers, aren’t quite what Hall had in mind when writing Four Flat Whites in Italy. It’s always an interesting thing to be the youngest person in an audience and very rarely an inherently bad thing. So, does the fact Flat Whites simply isn’t for me make it bad? Of course not, and while far from faultless, Flat Whites is a great example of a play knowing its audience and playing to them perfectly.

The story is a simple one, Labour-voting librarians Adrian (a charming Peter Hambleton) and Alison (a fragile Catherine Downes) go on holiday to Italy with their new neighbours, the National-voting Harry (a brash Tim Gordon) and Judy (a decidedly boisterous Jennifer Ludlam). A mixure of culture clashes both between the couples, and Italy (all of whose inhabitants expressed joyously severally by Michele Amas and Simon Vincent) itself leads to tension both comic and dramatic. The story is inoffensive and workable, serving as a well-gilded platter on which Hall serves up his pin-prick accurate observations of the social mores of the retired. If there is one real issue to be had with Flat Whites it is how oddly jarring the juxtaposition between the comic elements and more serious moments is. It can often feel rather hack-handed, a ride on an ill-maintained rollercoaster emotion.

The cast give fully commited performances, selling you their characters with ease and style. The directing is workable, doing everything it needs to without much flair or consequence. The design is effective in creating a brilliantly changeable space that crosses times and places.

Four Flat Whites in Italy
Written by Roger Hall
Directed by Ross Jolly
With Peter Hambleton, Catherine Downes, Tim Gordon, Jennifer Ludlam, Michele Amas and Simon Vincent
Circa One, 22 August–3 October 2009


About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

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