Four Flat Whites in Italy

Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

13/11/2009 - 12/12/2009

Production Details

Written by Roger Hall


Holidays from hell were never so much fun!  La Bella Italia!
Ah the joys of …Venice, Rome, and Tuscany!

Four Flat Whites in Italy is the latest comedy by popular playwright Roger Hall and the last show of the year for the Fortune Theatre.

Four Flat Whites in Italy, has had a sold out run in all major centres in New Zealand and will soon be in Dunedin! Fantastico!

The play is partly narrated by the character Adrian, and the story follows him and his wife Alison.  Alison and Adrian are described in the script as uptight and v. uptight respectively.  They have meticulously planned their Italian holiday right down to the last detail – the sights, the restaurants, churches and galleries.  However, when their best friends drop out Alison and Adrian are forced to embark on the trip of a lifetime with a couple they barely know; new neighbours, Harry and Judy.   

Harry is a plumber from Bluff, and Judy is his new provocative, sexy, outgoing wife.

This is character driven situational comedy at its best:  Adrian and Alison constantly compare themselves to Harry and Judy, disguising envy with distaste.  Must Judy lounge around in her bikini? While simultaneously forming intimate bonds with the other’s partner. Will Harry and Alison get along a little too well for comfort? Every character gets knock out lines.  Four Flat Whites in Italy is not just a comedy.  Hall has a way of slipping in real human drama in his comedies and it only makes it all the more enthralling.

Roger Hall is New Zealand’s best known and most commercially successful dramatist.  Almost all of his plays have been staged at The Fortune.  Among his many successful plays are:  Glide Time, Middle Age Spread, Hot Water, The Share Club, After the Crash, Conjugal Rites, By Degrees, Social Climbers, Market Forces, Take a Chance on Me and Taking Off, Spreading Out  and last year’s Who Wants to be 100?  Roger wrote the scripts for the successful musicals Footrot Flats and Love off the Shelf.  Roger Hall is known for his cheeky pantomimes Cinderella, Aladdin and Jack and the Beanstalk.  

Audiences have loved seeing these new characters of Four Flat Whites in Italy rub each other up the wrong way, and the other way.  Hall’s insight into human nature, his snappy dialogue, and ability to clash them all make this a ripper play.  Everyone can relate to holiday tension.  And everyone can recall spontaneous bonds formed while away from home.  There are moments of honest sweetness in the script.

November 13th to December 12th
Tuesday – 6pm
Wednesday- Saturday 7.30pm
Sunday – 4pm
Four Flat Whites in Italy is sponsored by Grazie.  

Bookings can be done or 03 477 8323

Stuart Devenie will play the uptight character, Adrian.  Stuart Devenie is an actor and director.  Stuart directed the pantomime, Jack & the Beanstalk, penned by Hall, at the Fortune last year.  Audiences may also recall his appearances in Les Liaisons Dangereuses and in the touring production of Hatch. His film work includes three Peter Jackson movies Meet the Feebles, Braindead and The Frighteners.  And most recently, The Tattooist, Te Rua, The Devil Dared Me To, In the Line of Fire and Life’s a Riot.  On television he’s been in Street Legal, Mercy Peak, Spin Doctors, Jack of All Trades, Hercules, Market Forces and Willy Nilly.  Based in Auckland, he has made many appearances in leading roles with the Auckland Theatre Company and directed their production of The God Boy.  In the course of his career Stuart has been the Artistic Director of both Centrepoint Theatre in Palmerston North and Playfair in Whangarei.  The play is narrated by the character Adrian; while Adrian speaks to us in the present day, the action of the play takes place in 2007.

Viv Aitken plays priggish wife of Adrian, Alison.  Viv is a well known thespian in the Otago region.  She is drama teacher at Otago Girls High School and has trod the boards of local stages.  For the Playhouse Theatre Viv wrote and directed Hansel and Gretel and performed in The Wizard of Oz as the Witch. For the Otago Humanities Dept: Hecuba, Oedipus The King and Antigone and for the Globe Theatre Old Times and for Allan Hall Theatre, The Bald Primadonna.  Viv was last seen at the Fortune Theatre in Dead Lucky, Take a Chance on Me and, The Country Wife. 

Dunedin actor and playwright, Simon O’Connor plays plumber, Harry.  His acting credits include roles for most of NZ’s professional theatres as well as for television and film.  He played Herbert Reiper in Peter Jackson’s award-winning Heavenly Creatures and will be remembered for his recent starring roles in Who Wants to be 100? as the charismatic Q.C  Edwin, and most recently at the Fortune, as Louis in Don Juan in Soho.  Simon was dynamic as Iago in Othello, Claudius in Hamlet and as Ken in the world premiere of Home Land.  Simon’s other previous Fortune appearances include the 1977 productions of Macbeth and Equus, The Lover and Silence, Shotgun Wedding, Bent, Romeo and Juliet, After the Crash, Crystal Clear, Horseplay, and Spreading Out.  He was one of the researchers and performers for the Otago University production of Hush, a verbatim documentary play about family violence.  He also co-devised and acted in the play One Day for RBS Product ions.  Simon is a published playwright, a past recipient of the Dominion Sunday Star Times Bruce Mason Award for playwriting, and a Williams Evans Fellow at the University of Otago.  He is a Teaching Fellow (playwrighting) at the University Otago’s Theatre Department.  One of his earliest writing gigs was for Close to Home.  Simon has won many awards including: Feltex Award (best actor), Gafta Award (best writer)

Julie Edwards plays the vivacious Judy.  Julie graduated from Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School in 1989 and has appeared in over 40 productions with the Fortune Theatre.  She played Kathy in Mum’s Choir, and most recently, Janice in Lucky Numbers.  Julie has worked as actor/director/drama teacher throughout NZ.  In 2008 she directed Things I Hate About Your Mother, by Sarah McDougal for the Otago Arts Festival.  She now lives in Brighton with her husband Jann, their three children – Eliza, David, Rose – and a variety of animals.

Rachel More plays various roles .Rachel is a Wellington based actor and director who originally hails from Dunedin.  After finishing her Master of Theatre Arts degree at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School in Directing she has directed numerous shows around New Zealand, including, Under Milkwood, at Downstage theatre and Backwards in High Heels and This is our Youth at the Circa Studio.  Along with Jacquie Coats she has directed two Summer Shakespeare’s, Much Ado about Nothing and The Taming of the Shrew in the Te Papa Amphitheatre.  As an actor Rachel won the Chapman Tripp most promising new comer award, for the role of Rosie Pye in Circa’s Humble Boy which she also performed in at the Fortune.  She has indulged in corseted foreplay in Simon Vincent’s A Renaissance Man at Bats and was last seen as a dancing mother on the edge of sanity in Paul Rothwell’s Christmas Indoors at Bats at the end of last year.  Rachel was also in the Fortune’s production of Love off the Shelf by Roger Hall.

Allan Henry plays various roles and was last seen as Aloysius in Don Juan in Soho at the Fortune.  Since Graduating from Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School in 2006, Allan has played Bernie in the highly popular Sexual Perversity in Chicago, Warren in Circa’s Studio, This is our Youth and starred in and choreographed the fight spectacular Footballistic.  Focusing on his other career, that of fight chorography, he has worked on numerous Wellington Theatre Productions, including the award winning Paua, at Downstage, Wait until Dark at Circa, Victoria University’s Henry V for the summer Shakespeare Season as well as films, Avatar, Warbrick and the NZ based, Life’s A Riot in which he was also Stunt Coordinator.  Allan has a great love of teaching at all levels and recently returned from studying in London where he achieved an Advanced Actor Combatant qualification with Gold Distinction from the British Academy of Dramatic Combat.

Lisa Warrington is the director, and with about 130 plays under her director’s belt she is ideal.  She has directed in a wide variety of genres, ranging from Shakespeare and Restoration comedy, to massive-cast pantomimes at the Regent Theatre, to contemporary solo shows.  In April of 2009 she directed Emma for the Fortune.  Four Flat Whites in Italy will be her 30th production for the Fortune.  She is a long-time supporter of NZ drama, and has directed many NZ plays, as well as commissioning new work and acting as a director or dramaturg with Playmarket on many new play workshops and public readings.  She has a passion for Shakespeare and has directed and adapted many of his comedies.  Most recently Love’s Labours Lost.  Favourite productions include: The Daylight Atheist, Old Times, Cherish, Bruised, Gulls, Arcadia, Wednesday to Come, Much Ado About Nothing, One Flesh and Dancing at Lughnasa.  Warrington has been named in the NZ Listener as best director for The Daylight Atheist, Cherish, Auntie and Me and The Road to Mecca.  Lisa is a senior lecturer in Theatre Studies at Otago University and is founder of WOW! Productions.  WOW! Productions and the Fortune recently collaborated on Glorious. One of her current projects is Theatre Aotearoa, a database of all NZ theatre, from settlement to the present, which may be viewed and used at  


Adrian - Stuart Devenie

Alison - Vivienne Aitken

Harry - Simon O'Connor

Judy - Julie Edwards

Italian Man - Allan Henry

Italian Woman - Rachel More


Set Design - Matt Best

Lighting Design - Martyn Roberts

Sound Design - Rebecca de Prospo

Costume Design - Maryanne Wright Smyth


Director - Lisa Warrington

Prod SM - Brendan van den Berg

Properties - Brendan van den Berg & Rebekah Sherratt

ASM - Miguel Nitis

Set Construction - Peter King & Matt Best

Sound Operation - Garry Kierle

Back Stage Support - Patrick Gallagher & Anna Henare

Blissful audience shares fantastic Tuscan holiday

Review by Terry MacTavish 17th Nov 2009

"Roger never lets us down," an usher confided on the preview night, "but this is the best Hall yet!" How apt that Roger Hall is Patron of the Fortune, when you consider that, by my count, this theatre has given 45 productions of his plays since Glide Time in 1977, virtually every one a box office success. Add that Four Flat Whites in Italy is the 30th production for the Fortune by one of New Zealand’s foremost directors, Lisa Warrington, and that she has assembled an outstanding cast, and it is not surprising that the whole theatre glows with the confidence that it has another smash hit on its hands.

A second visit confirmed that this is indeed the case: the audience were almost ecstatic, the cast responding with a joyous performance. There is a mellow warmth to this production of Four Flat Whites that makes it delicious holiday fare. By now, most of NZ knows the plot: two incompatible retired couples find themselves sharing a holiday in Italy in 2007; sightseeing in Rome and Venice, then a week at a villa in Tuscany. Brash wealthy Harry and second wife, jolly Judy, are convinced plenty of sex and cash make for a good holiday, while Adrian and anxious Alison, both erudite librarians, favour the Lonely Planet Guide, and hope to move on from the tragedy that lies behind them.

We share their actual and metaphorical journeys, getting a generous dollop of Italian travel experience on the way. It is a delight to share the highlights of romantic cities we either have, or wish we had, experienced, and it is extraordinary what a real sense Four Flat Whites gives of being transported to a more attractive world; in short, to having been on holiday. And then in a very bright move, Hall ties the trip of a lifetime to the disappointment of a lifetime – the All Blacks’ shocking loss to France.  

Lyn Clarke, reviewing the Court production, astutely described it as Theatre of Reassurance. We Kiwis believe Hall knows us, we certainly know his characters, and we like the picture he draws of us. The action is rollicking, the dialogue is funny, and we fondly if erroneously imagine we are that clever with one-liners in real life. We can even respond without difficulty to the swift transitions between comedy and tragedy. "This play seems meatier than his usual", one elderly patron commented.

Imaginative directing by Warrington, as well as superb casting, seems to have made up for shortcomings noted by reviewers of other productions. Admittedly there is Hall’s favoured device of the narrator, in this case Adrian, who shares with the audience his sometimes salacious musings, along with a bit of unnecessary exposition. Then there is that other regular, the intelligent but repressed woman who needs to be taught to let go; there are lines like, "Feminism has done away with flirting". The word ‘anal’ crops up a bit too often.

But the actors ensure every character is likeable enough for us to be genuinely concerned for them. This is especially impressive in the case of Vivienne Aitken playing uptight Alison, who could well have been unremittingly awful. Aitken gives her an unaffected nervous sincerity, and succeeds in gaining the audience’s protective sympathy. Meanwhile Stuart Devenie, as Adrian, is so disarmingly charming in his narrative role that we welcome his casual confidences. His delicious cringing embarrassment, and great comic timing, enable him to carry off even the obligatory boob grope with aplomb.

Simon O’Connor is completely convincing as Harry, a man who never seems to doubt himself. He is magnificent in his outraged response to the devastating defeat of the All Blacks, and his mere repetition of our favourite swear word – no, not bugger – is a tour de force. As his erstwhile secretary, now his wife, Julie Edwards, instead of giving us the clichéd busty tart-with-a-heart, performs with remarkable subtlety. Consequently she gets the laughs without seeming to strive for them. And she looks gorgeous, in a fabulous holiday wardrobe, designed by Maryanne Wright Smyth. 

The stage set (by Matt Best) is stunningly beautiful, with warm terracotta paving stones, vines rambling over soft pinky-orange arches and terraces, and cypresses silhouetted against the Mediterranean sky. It is brilliantly employed too, the revolve spinning merrily to speed the plot along. The hilarious chaos of Rome’s traffic is replicated, as is the dreamy drifting of Venice’s gondolas. Warrington has shown great ingenuity in the staging, with pigeons on poles soaring round Piazza San Marco, a tiny remote-controlled car standing in for the rental, and the actors themselves touching fingers to suggest the Sistine Chapel. The glorious lighting, created by Martyn Roberts, weaves a mellow spell, reinforced by irresistible Italian popular music, whether Vivaldi or Dean Martin.

The set is brought to life by a ravishing all-purpose Italian couple, played by Rachel More and Allan Henry, both blessed with dark good looks. They transform with skill and energy into myriad characters, not to mention Marini statues and Bellini paintings, and succeed in creating a convincing Italian atmosphere, whether fleecing the tourists, or flirting shamelessly with the audience. Their sexy Mambo Italiano drew wistful sighs as well as applause. 

The conclusion, suggesting a sartorial upgrade leads to lasting happiness, may seem to tie everything up somewhat perfunctorily, but then, even Shakespeare could finish a play with lines as banal as:
"If she, my liege, can make me know this clearly,
I’ll love her dearly, ever, ever dearly."
After all, there could be only one ending. Hall knows his audience, remember, and doesn’t let them down. Se non e vero, e molto ben trovato!

Everyone deserves an Italian romance. Mine happened to be one Antonino Soldatini, handsome navigation officer on a luxurious Italian liner bound for Napoli, but failing Tony, all Dunedin should certainly share a fantastic Tuscan holiday with Four Flat Whites. I don’t believe I’ve ever sat in the midst of a more blissful audience.
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Discordant quartet in Italy

Review by Barbara Frame 17th Nov 2009

Seasoned travellers know that asking for a flat white in Italy will get you nowhere. Coffee, though, is the least of Adrian’s and Alison’s problems. Circumstances and their own reticence find the retired librarians (Labour voters, culture-mad, super-organised and on a tight budget) on holiday with neighbours Harry and Judy (National voters, rugby-mad, spontaneous and rolling in money). As the woes of shared bathrooms, the awkwardness of restaurant bill-splitting and the frustrations of incompatible agendas mount, it becomes clear that something far worse hovers between Adrian and Alison.

Roger Hall’s new comedy, directed at the Fortune by Lisa Warrington, looks at the possibilities and realities of travel, and at the unexpected discoveries it can provide. Like most of Hall’s plays, this one takes recognisable New Zealanders, puts them into a situation the audience can relate to, and explores their lives.

Julie Edwards is all cleavage and big heart as Judy, married to her former boss, Harry, who made his fortune in plumbing supplies. Simon O’Connor plays him with grating philistinism, leavened with flashes of magnanimity. Stuart Devenie’s Adrian, who intermittently acts as narrator, is gangly and repressed, his multi-compartmented travel outfit suggesting a need for unattainable security. Most affecting is Vivienne Aitken as Alison, clutching her Lonely Planet guide and something of a lonely planet herself, consumed alternately by earnest aestheticism and corrosive bitterness.

Rachel More and Allan Henry bring charm, polish and highly credible Italian accents to a multiplicity of roles from statues to waiters to aristocrats and my favourite, a Roman centurion with a cellphone.

Smart, funny and compassionate, Four Flat Whites in Italy would make an excellent pre-Christmas treat. The season will run until 12 December.
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