Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Case Study No. 0472: Adrian and Alison

Four Flat Whites in Italy
Directed by Sandra Bates

Sara Bovolenta
Adriano Cappelletta
Sharon Flanagan
Mary Regan
Michael Ross
& Henri Szeps

Holidays from hell were never so much fun!

Venice! Rome! Tuscany! With a copy of Lonely Planet in one hand and an Italian phrase book in the other, recently retired librarians Adrian and Alison feel prepared to face the excitement of la bella Italia. But when their best friends suddenly drop out of the trip, their new neighbours decide to join them. Are they really ready to share their precious holiday with a couple they hardly know? And will Adrian's wandering eye make it impossible for Alison to keep him on their busy sightseeing schedule?

From Viagra to Vespas, from bingeing to budgeting, Michelangelo to la dolce vita, this is one journey they'll never forget -- they may even need a holiday to recover!
Tags: Four Flat Whites Ensemble Theatre henri szeps Roger Hall New Zealand Sydney Italy Play Michael Ross Comedy Drama theater
Added: 10 months ago
From: EnsembleTV
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Four Flat Whites in Italy
by Roger Hall
by arrangement with PlayMarket

Play 6 - Australian Premiere - From 8 September 2011

[scene opens with the director on stage speaking directly to the camera]
SANDRA: Hi, I'm Sandra Bates, and I directed the play. And, uh, it's just such fun. There's something about doing a play where, even in rehearsal, you can't stop laughing.
[cut to various scenes from the play]
SANDRA: [in voice over] Uh, I've been blessed with a stunning cast.
[cut to the actors sitting on stage and speaking directly to the camera]
MARY: Hi, I'm Mary Regan, in the role of Judy in "Four Flat Whites in Italy." And over to my--
HENRI: And I'm Henri Szeps, and I'm putting on this funny Kiwi accent because it's been very very hard to practice.
[cut to another scene from the play]
ADRIAN: Come and look at the view, look at the view!
ALISON: I just want to sort things out first, alright?
[cut back to the actors sitting on stage and speaking directly to the camera]
SHARON: Hi, my name's Sharon Flanagan, and I'm playing Alison. And I'm married to this fellow.
MICHAEL: Hi, I'm Michael Ross, and I play Adrian ...
[he points at Sharon]
MICHAEL: And I'm married to this fellow!
[she laughs]


HENRI: It's this wonderful little piece of two couples who don't know one another very well, on holidays, thrown together ... And it's, Roger Hall wrote this and it's very funny, and it's got some really really wonderful surprises in it.
SHARON: And some of you may see some of the behind-the-scenes things that happen with couples, and also when blood sugar's dropping when travelling with people you don't know very well.
[cut to another scene from the play]
JUDY: Lighten up, Alison! It's harmless stuff ...
[cut back to the actors sitting on stage and speaking directly to the camera]
ADRIANO: But it's lots of fun, and it's lot of fun to play big Italians. And to sort of play these Italians, with these New Zealanders who really have no idea what's going on, and they try and speak bad Italian to us and just sort of coast along and get scammed.
[cut back to the director on stage speaking directly to the camera]
SANDRA: Yes, I'm blessed with a stunning cast, and I know you're gonna have a good time because not only is it very funny, it's actually a great journey that they go on. And, uh, great friendships ... So, come along and enjoy it!



Roger Hall's Four Flat Whites in Italy premiered in New Zealand in 2008 and is currently in revival productions there. It is an excellent example of his great style and at times has the audience rocking with laughter. Yet at other times it is sad and moving.

Hall has produced a witty, acerbic script featuring sharply defined characters, sardonic asides, funny monologues and intense poignancy. The play is about the New Zealand consciousness and focuses on a quartet of retirees at opposite ends of the economic spectrum. Ex librarian, bookworm, art gallery-attending Labour voters Adrian (Michael Ross) and Alison (Sharon Flanagan) are just about to embark on the trip of a lifetime to Italy with old friends, when a broken ankle means the friends can longer travel. Instead, they end up travelling with their well off, National voting neighbors Harry (Henry Szeps), who ran a lucrative plumbing business before retiring, and his wife Judy (Mary Regan).

The stage is set for misunderstandings, major and minor adjustments for both couples, gentle and not so gentle teasing and bickering.

As the narrator, Adrian, Ensemble stalwart Ross is terrific. He gives a deadpan delivery of the self criticizing, self deprecating character and delicately defines the melancholy, lonely world he inhabits inside a fractured marriage. As his bitter, earnest and frustrated wife, Flanagan is excellent as an educated, extremely organized and at times very bossy character – no wonder Harry jokingly calls her ‘mummy'. But there is heartbreak hidden behind the facade of their seemingly loving marriage: soon we learn what happened to their daughter, Joanna, and why Adrian will no longer drive.

Ebullient, self satisfied, leering, almost Falstaffian Harry is marvellously played by Szeps. His second wife, the bold, brazen, voluptuous Judy is deliciously played by Regan. A lapsed Catholic – or is she? – Judy is both a divorcee and has had an abortion – both of which could cause crisis in their relationship.

We see them caught up in the tourist traps and sightseeing (e.g. St Mark's Square in Venice, a gondola ride and the Coliseum); witness arguments about how they split the bills; Alison's dislike of mobile phones; and more, as the couples' relationships develop on their shared holiday.

The final couple to be mentioned are Sara Bovolenta and Adriano Cappelletta who play all the other characters (waiters, motel receptionists, security guards, car hire people etc). Highlights would have to be the centurion at the Coliseum, a gondolier, and the Count and Contessa who own the villa the four stay in for their final week – glorious fun.

Dale-Johnson's multi layered, multi-level set design is fabulous, incorporating at times simple tables and chairs, but also including various projections – particularly handy for when we see the sights of Venice and Rome. There is a small portable ‘bridge' for the Venetian sequence that also doubles as a gondola. And the dancing under the stars at the conclusion is indeed romantic.

At the end there is a bittersweet atmosphere of sadness, happiness, forgiveness and reconciliation. Six actors in a fine, contemporary social comedy that audiences will hugely enjoy.



Adrian and his wife, Alison, two librarians, are about to embark on their first overseas holiday for decades when their old friends are unexpectedly unable to go. Harry and Judy, two similarly aged but vastly different personalities become the reluctant travelling companions. Secrets, lies and old habits die hard as the hapless four attempt to negotiate Rome, Venice and Tuscany and have compromise forced upon them.

Adrian has led a regimented and frustrating life and his buttoned down view of life is sorely challenged by Harry and Judy. But as he says, "the holiday that didn't go according to plan turned out better than either of us could have hoped for."

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