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Genesian Theatre: Four Flat Whites in Italy - Review by Rhonda Hancock

Ahhh……Italy! My favourite European holiday destination. There is something so captivating about Italy. It is such a beautiful place. Millions of tourists flock to Italy every year to soak up the rich culture, the spectacular scenery and amazing architecture. Home to some of the world’s most famous artistic masterpieces and monuments, Italy is the only country in the world with over 50 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Well known for its architecture, culture, art, opera, literature, film, fashion and delicious cuisine - Italy is on everybody’s bucket list.

“Four Flat Whites in Italy” tells the story of two retired couples as they embark on a trip of a lifetime to Italy – an “adventure before dementia”. It is a travel diary of sorts, told through the eyes of Adrian, a retired librarian (played by David Stewart-Hunter). As the narrator, Stewart -Hunter immediately engages with the audience as he recounts their holiday experience. He portrayed a hapless (but very relatable) character with humour and sensitivity. I enjoyed his performance immensely, especially the funny little quips and aside comments that made the character so engaging. Stewart -Hunter was ably supported by Penny Church, in the role of Alison, his wife. I loved the character of Alison – with her Lonely Planet guide in hand, she has planned (and over planned) every minute of their sightseeing adventure – only to find that things are not quite as they appear in the book. Church gave an amusing portrayal of the organized, budget conscious, and often frustrated traveller, who regaled her companions with her vast knowledge of history and art. Rounding out the foursome were Harry, a retired plumber (played by Christopher Pali) and Judy, his much younger wife (played by Karen Pattinson). Pali and Pattinson brought a lot of energy to the stage as the unlikely cohorts in this travel adventure – who politely tolerated “Art Lecture 101” but really just wanted to have fun, and enjoy the food, wine and romance. Their cheeky, fun-loving characterisations were both amusing and enjoyable.

These four intrepid retirees met a varied collection of local people on their travels – a waiter, a barista, a shopkeeper, a beggar, a B&B owner and a gondolier (to name a few). These characters were aptly portrayed by Imran Khaliqi and Kimberlea Smith who showed their versatility and great comedic timing in their entertaining performances.

Director, Tui Clark and her team are to be congratulated on creating the atmosphere and ambience of Italy on the stage. Clark, in collaboration with co-designer Tom Fahy, took advantage of the architecture of the theatre itself – incorporating the back wall of the church and stained glass windows into the set, which was completed with a few strategically placed arches and columns, and clever lighting by Cian Byrne. I particularly liked the two sets of steps that were rearranged throughout the play and became a bridge, a gondola, a flight of stairs, and two deck chairs. Special mention should be made of scenic artist Gregory George, who, along with costume designer Helen Kohlhagen and sound designer Michael Schell, heightened the Italian holiday vibe.

Anyone who has ever travelled overseas will find this play relatable and engaging. I immediately connected with the characters and the plot - as I was reminded of my own (and sometimes very similar) travel experiences. My daughter and I exchanged many knowing looks as the characters got lost in Venice, lost their credit card (in our case it was forgetting the PIN), fell victim to unscrupulous panhandlers, asked for directions but didn’t understand the answer, couldn’t fit their luggage into the hire car, and found the accommodation was not what was expected. I could hear other audience members discussing their own holiday mishaps during the interval – I think everyone has a good travel story to share!

Four Flat Whites in Italy was very entertaining. It made me laugh, it made me cry (well, almost) and it made me reminisce. I give it 3 out of 5 Tuscan Villas.

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