Judging by the uproarious laughter that rings out during rehearsals of FourPlayFour, it’s surprising that any work gets done at all. Yet as the team attests, they are indeed working very hard and putting in long hours of rehearsals, which yes, are very funny.
The FourPlay concept was created by Alan Montanaro ten years ago, and it has gone from strength to strength. For FourPlayFour, Montanaro is joined by stalwarts Louiselle Vassallo and Isabel Warrington, with a new addition to the FourPlay team – Edward Mercieca, whose comedy chemistry with Alan is legendary.
“The idea for a sketch show with just four actors has always been on my mind, but it’s been sitting on the back burner next to my ideas of world domination,” says Montanaro, taking a break from attempting some ballet moves and grimacing somewhat as he massages his sore limbs.
“However, when the dates of a theatre booking were suddenly brought forward, necessity took over and we had to produce a show in a couple of weeks with no material. I needed a minimum of four writers to help with that, and having four directors meant that we could rehearse simultaneously to save time. Thus FourPlay was born against all odds and the response surpassed my expectations, which were pretty high. It’s a show I’m very proud of.”
For this edition, Alan is thrilled to be working with Edward once again. “I’ve always enjoyed working with Edward – we share a special chemistry which comes from the respect we have for one another. I also feel very safe with him – he has often saved me when I lost a line or three. I think I may have done the same for him…”
Mercieca hears his name being mentioned and hobbles over. He’s just screwed up his Achilles’ tendon – clearly choreographer Emma Loftus is working the team hard!
“My partnership with Alan works so well because we find each other funny,” says Edward matter-of-factly. “Alan cracks me up every time – it seems I do the same to him, especially if I’m wearing a wig… and I’m wearing many wigs in this show. The only way to avoid this is to never look at each other in the eye… because when we do, we just corpse!”
Isabel Warrington and Louiselle Vassallo, both of whom have been part of the FourPlay team since inception, are working on an Interpretive Dance sketch. From this angle, we can’t interpret anything at all, so we subtly interrupt to get some comments from them.
Vassallo explains what it is that attracts her to this type of theatre. “I’ve always enjoyed comedy and satire,” she enthuses. “It’s completely different to anything else I’ve ever done and being on the FourPlay stage is absolutely brilliant. I always have a blast.”
A character Vassallo keeps revisiting is the beloved Chenticienne Marie Chetcuti. How has Chenticienne evolved over the years? “Well, she has evolved, in that she discovered her trademark “ehe!” during the second edition of Fourplay and she has a very healthy career-change turnover,” Louiselle reminisces with a laugh. “The ‘lady’ is definitely ambitious. After all, she did start out as a checkout girl and has now reached the lofty heights of the civil service. The beauty, for want of a better word, of this character is that, in spite of her crassness, I’m really quite fond of her naivety and in-your-face demeanour.”
Warrington tells us that she loves the rehearsal period because the sketches are so light hearted and playful. “There’s also a brilliant rapport between us actors since we’ve all worked together before on numerous productions,” she says. “Of course, there’s also the odd mishap either on stage or off stage, which has us in fits of laughter after the show.”
It’s not always laughs however, admits Warrington, as the cast are summoned back to work. “There’s always some insecurity before opening night as we never know how the audience will react. The reality is that some sketches work more than others, and you have to be brave enough not to be put off if you don’t get a laugh immediately. Yet obviously, the shows themselves are so much fun – there’s very little time to think as we change from one character to another, and keeping the audience entertained throughout is wonderful…”
FourPlayFour is written by Alan Montanaro, Malcolm Galea, Herman Grech and Chiara Hyzler, with additional material by Vikesh Godhwani and Joseph Zammit. The show is directed by Denise Mulholland, Malcolm Galea, Herman Grech and Chiara Hyzler. The choreography is by Emma Loftus, with musical arrangements by Paul Abela.
FourPlayFour is brought to you by DnA Theatre Productions, and will be performed at the Manoel Theatre on the 6th, 7th, 8th, 13th, 14th and 15th November at 8pm.
Tickets can be purchased from the Manoel Theatre website, or email email@example.com, or call 2124 6389.