Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

14/11/2015 - 12/12/2015

Production Details

Co-writers: Alison Quigan and Ross Gumbley
Director: Melanie Luckman

Set in the backdrop of the Saturday night dance hall era, Flagons & Foxtrots is an unmissable Kiwiana comedy.

Sid Jenkins has been running the local dance hall for years – with a bit of help from Aunty Ina, who runs the local switchboard and provides the legendary curried eggs – but tonight will be unlike any other!

The audience was hysterical… enough to send them into paroxysms of delight.  The Listener

The Archie Moore Trio dream of stardom and the first step is to play at the Saturday night dance. However, grumpy Sid does not trust that the young lads are up to it. Will they get to play?

To complicate things, young Jack has gone and entangled himself with two sheilas. He must choose between his long-time girlfriend Jill and the alluring Rita.

It’s a winning combination and a rocking night out.  Theatreview

Director Melanie Luckman says, “This play is a true celebration of what it meant to be young in NZ in the 1960s. The spirit of the music at that time embodied an emerging rebellion against the old establishment and the show reflects this.”

This show is sure to be an immensely entertaining evening out! The jokes will have you rolling in the isles and you won’t be able to help but tap your feet to the beat of the Archie Moore Trio.

Revelations and surprises unfold in an evening of fun, laughter and rampant hormones. Don’t miss Flagons and Foxtrots, a fun nostalgic celebration as we head down to the hall for a night of music, dance and hilarity.

A nostalgic feel good show that got the audience to its feet – to dance and to applaud.  Capital Times

FORTUNE THEATRE, 231 Stuart Street, Dunedin
14 November – 12 December, 2015
Tuesday, 6.00pm, Wednesday – Saturday, 7.30pm, Sunday, 4.00pm
(no show Monday)
Tickets:  Gala (first 5 shows) $34, Adults $42, Senior Citizens $34, Members $32, Tertiary Students $20, High School Students $15, Group discount (10+) $34
Bookings:  Fortune Theatre, 231 Stuart Street, Dunedin
Box Office 03 477 8323 or visit www.fortunetheatre.co.nz
1 hour and 50 minutes including an interval

Lunchtime Bites / Thursday, 5 November
Meet at 12.15pm in the Dunedin Public Library, ground floor. The actors will perform an excerpt from Flagons and Foxtrots with an opportunity to win tickets. Reading will commence at 12.30pm followed by afternoon tea. This is a FREE event.
Opening Night / Saturday, 14 November,
7.30pm, Fortune Theatre.
Members’ Briefing/ Sunday, 15 November,
Meet at the Fortune bar at 3.00pm and join Director Mel Luckman for a lively informal chat about Flagons and Foxtrots.
Forum / Tuesday, 17 November
Join the cast and crew for an open question and answer session following the 6.00pm show.

Will Alexander, Cheryl Amos, Nadya Shaw Bennett, Kathleen Burns, James Foster, Jared Kirkwood and Phil Vaughan

Set Designer:  Peter King 
Set Builder:  Richard Clark 
Lighting Designer:  Stephen Kilroy 
Costume Designer:  Maryanne Wright-Smyth 
Sound Designer:  Lindsay Gordon 
Stage Manager:  Monique Webster  
Properties:  George Wallace  

Theatre ,

Authentic recreation its absolute charm

Review by Terry MacTavish 16th Nov 2015

“To dance is to live!” as Snoopy wisely declared, and the Fortune’s traditional Christmas cracker is designed to delight both those who danced their way through the mating games in the sixties and today’s digi-babies who connect by fingertip only: those poor kids, never to experience the thrill of not only surrendering their own body to seductive music, but of doing so in conjunction with a mysterious and attractive stranger who just might be The One. 

The charming nostalgia of Flagons & Foxtrots is quite perfect for the season. It is one of the series of plays Alison Quigan and Ross Gumbley wrote for Centrepoint Theatre, because, as Quigan said, “Nobody was giving us a play that would give people that theatre Christmas present … they wanted a good night out”. And that’s what we get.

After the thrilling, challenging plays the Fortune has presented this year, the public revels in a delicious recreation of the fabulous 1960s local dances, right here in New Zealand. My guests, ranging tonight from 17 to 70, absolutely love this shimmering production and mourn the demise of those dancing days.

Quigan and Gumbley know exactly what a Kiwi audience likes, and the characters and plot follow a long-established and winning formula, enhanced by the music and mores of a beloved bygone era. The device of teaching the steps to a novice means we all learn (or are reminded of) the classic sixties numbers like the bouncy Gay Gordons that was a change-partners speed-dating, and the non-Viennese Waltz that led in to supper, or to the carpark after the dance. In the final scene, we all get the chance to show off what we have learnt.

The ‘Mosgiel Memorial Hall’ set by Peter King is superb, instantly recognisable with the typical little stage, a sliding door to the kitchen, and wooden floor surrounded by uncomfortable benches.  (It will later neatly fold in on itself for a brilliant transformation to the outside of the Hall, complete with classic car.)

Sid Jenkins, who runs the dances, is in the act of ripping off posters advertising the Bobbin Robbins, who have cancelled. Meanwhile the lads who make up the Archie Moore Trio, hopeful of getting the gig, launch into their stunning version of Runaway. (How well I recall arguing with my brother about its lyrics – he insisted “end this misery” was “endless misery” which completely destroys the sense, now, doesn’t it?!) 

The older generation is represented by conservative Sid, a solo dad protective of his naive daughter Jillian, and his more liberal sister-in-law Ina, who have a predictable storyline of their own. Experienced veteran Phil Vaughan endows Sid with a paint-stripper accent and splendidly aggressive waddle – although he later dances with amazing grace! Cheryl Amos plays Aunty Ina, the telephone operator who knows all (remember Peninsula?), with cosy warmth and a twinkle as she pinches tempting bottoms. 

Innocent Jillian, fixated on her wedding and the innuendo-laden ‘glory-box’ that goes with it, is contrasted with her more experienced friend, the singer Rita. The three boys are the archetypal trio who appear in plays like Ann Jellicoe’s original sixties classic, The Knack: Jack as the sex god, Pinkie the inept virgin who emulates him, and Archie the one with true charm but a disdain for male power games.

Will Alexander is a convincing and not too obnoxious stud as Jack, who has two girls on a string, but is faced with a quandary he initially lacks the maturity to handle. His is the character that shows some growth over the course of the night.

Pinkie is played by James Foster as an amiable idiot obsessing equally over getting a girl and finding a less stuffy name for the Archie Moore Trio: “an animal, but spelt wrong – kows? Pozzumz?” His clumsy antics make for much of the fairly unsophisticated humour.

Jared Kirkwood, recently so impressive in Punk Rock, is disarmingly affable in the role of Archie, the band’s leader, and utterly irresistible in his amusing improvised interaction with the audience. When he plucks a lucky lady-of-a-certain-age from the audience to partner him, she is the object of considerable envy.

Together the boys make believable buddies who know each other’s weaknesses, and the audience clearly enjoy the funny scenes in which they attempt to teach Pinkie to dance and give him advice on how to score with the ladies. Certainly it must have been an ordeal getting across that vast floor to ask a girl to dance.  But Flagons and Foxtrots is predominantly the male viewpoint, and I am surprised there is not more awareness of how grim some of those dances were for the girls, especially the wallflowers with desperate smiles and sweating palms. Charity cases, the boys call them. 

Kathleen Burns as sultry singer Rita makes the most of her opportunity to show some feeling, however, especially in the powerful delivery of You Don’t Own Me. Her method of teaching Pinkie that new craze, the Twist, is undeniably smoking hot, but it is her dawning feminism that has the young women behind me cheering. 

Nadya Shaw Bennett is gorgeous as saving-it-for-marriage Jillian, a dental nurse who fashions an engagement ring out of amalgam and grieves because the children run and hide when they see her. It’s a pity the script doesn’t allow for Jillian to transition from 50s to 60s attitudes, but Shaw Bennett plays her absurdities with just the right degree of naïve sincerity, and she carries off with élan the sweetest car-boot drinking scene I am ever likely to see.

Another highlight is the girls’ furious fight, hilariously conducted with flung shoes and the contents of a purse. This also shows off the subtlety of Maryanne Wright-Smyth’s costume design, the full skirt and frothy petticoats of Jillian contrasted with the ultra-modern (1965!) Mondrian shift worn by the more sophisticated Rita.

Given recent statistics showing the paltry level of female involvement in national theatre, it is heartening that the director is a woman, Melanie Luckman. The appalling tips for the perfect wife reprinted in the programme* show the tongue-in-cheek angle she employs, which subverts some of the blokey attitudes and cruder jokes that might otherwise go unchallenged.  

With the assistance of choreographer Brian Johnston, Luckman ensures the play zips along with spirit and style. I love the surprisingly beautiful opening of the second half, with the dark suited boys dancing elegantly in silhouette, while the girls rush frantically between them pursuing each other as a prelude to their cat-fight. 

The absolute charm of this home-grown production however, remains the authentic recreation of a great era, the opportunity to revel in the memories and the chance to get down on the stage and actually dance the Gay Gordons. The sheer joy on the faces of the participants should inspire everyone to join the happy throng. To quote master-philosopher Snoopy again: “If you can’t dance, you should at least be able to do a happy hop!” 

*I must mention that this, designed by Lucy Summers, is again a splendid example of the Fortune’s quality programmes: attractive and accessible, with funny, informative notes about play and players, on glossy paper with brilliant photos of the production. Such a contrast to the one on offer from Sydney Theatre Company last month, rather dull on nasty paper with no photos of set or cast in costume, and twice the price! 


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