18 May 2017, Napier Municipal Theatre
I am certainly old enough to remember enjoying Roger Hall’s TV series Gliding On from the 80s but I was not expecting to enjoy his play Four Flat Whites in Italy, which is pitched at the retiree section of society. This particular production was directed by Geraldine Brophy (receptionist Moira off Shortland Street) and performed in Napier for one night only.
Hall is most surely an accomplished playwright and veritable wordsmith, rhyming words like “adventure” with “dementia”; his line “At our age, saving money is wasting money” had the audience roaring with concurring laughter. Much of the comedy was political, with jokes about Labour versus National supporters going down well – it was hard to tell which supporters were laughing more. And while I was one of the few not to laugh during the rugby-viewing scene, most of the jokes still appealed to this 40-something theatre-goer.
The acting was on the most part convincing, although more than a few lines were obviously fluffed and unsuccessfully ad-libbed. Much of the comedy came from the two extras who played waiters, gondola drivers, hoteliers and gladiators, to name but a few – particularly entertaining when they literally danced around the stage moving sets, laying tables and flirting ever so slightly.
The set was simple, yet effective; a pergola representing Venice managed to be transformed into a Tuscan villa; tables and chairs were moved around to represent different cafes and restaurants. A miniature, remote-controlled VW careened around the stage to add to the image of the foursome driving through Italy and a gondola rolled onto the stage to support the Venice canal scene.
Written in 2009, references to Blackberry phones and a lack of GPS certainly dated this play as such, on the other hand, I anticipate enjoying it even more in 20 years’ time than I did last night!