29 August 2011

Four Flat Whites in Italy: incisive insights and loads of laughs

Just before launching into his fifth performance as Adrian in Roger Hall’s Four Flat Whites in Italy, actor Stuart Devenie tells drama on the waterfront about how it feels to return to this audience favourite Hall comedy.

DOTW: What is the basic story of Four Flat Whites in Italy? What can you tell us about your character?

SD: Adrian and his wife, Alison, two librarians, are about to embark on their first overseas holiday for decades when their old friends are unexpectedly unable to go. Harry and Judy, two similarly aged but vastly different personalities become the reluctant travelling companions. Secrets, lies and old habits die hard as the hapless four attempt to negotiate Rome, Venice and Tuscany and have compromise forced upon them.

Adrian has led a regimented and frustrating life and his buttoned down view of life is sorely challenged by Harry and Judy. But as he says, “the holiday that didn’t go according to plan turned out better than either of us could have hoped for.”

DOTW: I understand that this is your fifth production of Four Flat Whites; what is it like to return to this production yet again? Does it change for you each time?

SD: I’ve performed Adrian in Auckland, Dunedin, Palmerston North, Napier, and now Wellington. The play always unfolds in a different way with new actors and directors and of course the different venues, and for this reason it remains fresh and enjoyable to work on. It’s been great re-connecting with Darien Takle, my first Alison in Auckland and Viv Bell who played Judy with me in Palmerston North. It’s also the first time I’ve worked with Ross Jolly in theatre. We did a lot of work together on television in the 70s and 80s, most notably, Gliding On and Market Forces. We’ve all had a lot of fun in rehearsal and I’m sure our audiences will as well.

DOTW: Nearly everyone on the cast (except Heather O’Carroll) has performed in this play before – was it challenging bringing together all the different experiences into one cohesive production?

SD: I think because of everyone’s familiarity with the piece it’s allowed us to explore lots of different options with the play. As we all understand the substance of the play we are free to hone the style specifically for the new space.

DOTW: Although you directed and starred in many productions in the original Harris Street building – including directing the very first production in that space, The Italian Straw Hat – this is your debut in Circa One. How does it feel to return to Circa after so long? How does the current building compare to the old?

SD: Well, it’s been a long time coming and I always love having an opportunity to be in Wellington for a while. The main difference between the buildings is that Circa is no longer performing theatre on a postage stamp and there are no decomposing pigeons in the air vent!

DOTW: Finally, getting back to Four Flat Whites in Italy, what can audiences expect from this production?

SD: As with all of Roger’s comedies, and this one has been his most popular, the audience can expect some incisive insights and loads of laughs. I’m looking forward to our opening night.

Four Flat Whites in Italy opens in Circa One on 3 September and runs until 7 October. To book, call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz

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