Therry Theatre. Arts Theatre. 25 Mar 2023
After all the daring newness of our massive Fringe and Festival shows, it is a comforting delight to sit down in an old-school matinee of quietly clever, well-presented local theatre.
The title of this Roger Hall play is the key to its plot. For all the expertise of the Italian caffeine tradition, the “flat white” is not a coffee Italy serves. Asking for a “flat white" abroad presents an hospitality impasse which reveals the asker’s antipodean culture. Hence, “Four Flat Whites In Italy” describes the essence of the play: four Aussie tourists in Italy. Only one of them has done her homework to know how to order coffee.
This is a very light comedy,
A couple of recently-retired and downsized librarians are planning the holiday of a lifetime in Italy. Suddenly, their old travelling companion friends have to cancel. Their nouveau-riche, apartment-block neighbours offer to step in so the dream trip can go ahead.
While they have played a couple of hands of bridge together, the social and political differences of the four have not been explored. The new neighbour is a successful retired plumber with a trophy wife. The librarians are on humble budgets.
Cue for lots of comic and ironic banter as the contrasts unravel and the characters emerge on the great “adventure-before-dementia” European holiday.
With Don Oswald, director Kerrin White has devised a cunning set which convincingly places the action in Venice, Rome, and Tuscany. This set plays its own comic role, so expertly versatile it is.
Sam Wiseman and Rose Harvey embody the entire working population of Italy quite charmingly: wait staff, tour guides, receptionists, and operatic gondolier.
Furthermore, the cast of principals is up to the demands of their assorted roles, albeit with a bit of liberty with the script at times.
Sue Wylie is bravest of the foursome since she plays the character the audience has to loathe, the annoying super-organiser, know-it-all travel drear full of tedious factual minutiae. Wylie nails her in slow, over-emphasised delivery while, true to script, she is costumed in symphony of drabness.
Her fellow librarian spouse is played by Lindsay Dunn, a reliable actor who specialises in laconic characters. He also is real-time narrator of this travel tale, an artful dramatic device with which the playwright can add peculiarities, insights, and satirical commentary.
Indeed, it is not for nix that Roger Hall has been knighted for this work and has been dubbed here, across the ditch, as New Zealand’s David Williamson.
This is a skilfully-crafted play.
The characters bounce off each other and, as the plot progresses, present pertinent psychological and cultural revelations.
The work's resolution is intelligent and satisfying. The audience has found its own sweet spot for the rich plumber’s trophy wife, impeccably depicted for Therry by Anita Zamberlan Canala. As for her brash, moneyed husband, well, he is played by Frank Cwiertniak, a fine Adelaide actor who is at his peak and, with his character written by Hall, he has more than one dimension to express, but no spoilers here.
This is a play which makes one reflect on human values, ponder social mores, learn about Italy, laugh and guffaw at human follies and foibles and then, just get a bit misty.
Good choice, Therry. Nice work, White and cast.
But please take Saturday matinees back to the traditional 2pm timeslot.
When: 25 Mar to 1 Apr
Where: Arts Theatre