Play 1 – THE BARRISTA
Peter Lally – a 10 minute play for submission to Pieces of Gold, ETC Theatre (WHICH IGNORED IT)
Cast of Characters
MARKOS – Man 35 to 40, Barrista
Nik – Man 25 to 30, Barrista
The Setting: the play takes part in a café, where the 2 men work under an oppressive regime of a female manageress and a homosexual supervisor
DOWNSTAIRS OUTSIDE THE CAFÉ IN THE MORNING BEFORE WORK, MARKOS AND A TRAMP THERE
(He’s smoking a cigarette, looking down at the ground, brooding. He then looks up to side, as if a tramp edges nearer to him)
(to audience) Poor guy! He looks like he has no home. I never saw poverty like this in all my time in
Athens. We never had homeless there; I’ve only seen this thing since I moved to London. This one’s here every morning before I start my job.
(He takes one big drag of cigarette, and throws it on floor. Starts to leave and then stops, acting as if the tramp comes to pick up the butt)
Here my friend, they taste better this way!
(M gives him a couple of cigarettes, kindly lights one, turns on heels and walks off)
IN THE CAFÉ, JUST AS IT OPENS, NIK A CO-WORKER IN CAFE ALREADY, CLEANING COUNTER
(Opens door and enters)
Good Morning Markos
Is the idiot in yet?
He’ll be in late today. He was in yesterday all day, talking bullshit.
The usual then
(impersonates gay man)
‘I’m so tired, I haven’t slept at all.
Did he go to a club?
‘We went to a club, and I met this guy and we were dancing and drinking. I came straight to work today’
No one was giving him any attention. He didn’t look like he’d had a big night out.
That’s because he didn’t have one. He was at home with his cock in his hand, pumping away; talking to it about the café. It probably went to sleep under the conversation.
Nik, let’s enjoy our time without our fantasist supervisor. The sun is out, and even though we’re inside I can see it shining through the windows for us. Look! Here comes our first regular, walking past the row of windows, casting a shadow on the cafe room like the gnomon of a sundial. He’s reminding us it’s 9 o clock, that the day has started, that human activity has commenced.
Watch! He’ll put down his bag first and carefully sort his things out. Then he’ll walk over here, look at the board and ponder for a minute what to have, before ordering his usual black filter coffee. I like the guy. The usual; gets on with his writing quietly; no fuss at all.
He’s a writer?
Well he’s trying. Perhaps he writes about us?
What would there be to say?
If he’s any good I think he will find something.
(Nik looks over to the side and moves over the to serve a customer)
Hello Madam can I help you? (pause) A cake? (pause) You don’t like the cake?? Oh, you don’t like the cake display. Why…? Your son can’t read the signs? He is very young…
How can we be stymieing his learning?
Okay, I’ll get the manageress for you
(to audience) What a stupid argument. What a job. What a life!
IN THE CAFE, LATER IN DAY, NIK &MARKOS AT COUNTER
And so she sends the supervisor out. He says ‘Can you all note that this is a problem. I’d like to thank the customer and this young man for helping us with their suggestion. We’d like to offer a free cake to the two of you. We shall make this a priority issue for our management meeting tonight’
What are these meetings about? It’s just a café in a bookstore. It’s just coffees and cakes. What can they talk about? Do you know how long they had their meeting on Monday. Three hours! Can you imagine what they must be saying?
It’s really just the manageress, and the two gay supervisors
She just likes having gay men around her. Her husband’s always fucking young girls. He runs the other cafe in Soho. He’s really ugly. There’s always some stupid girl who’ll do it. She has no friends, so she pays to have these men around her for meetings. She’ll change the position of the fridge, and one of the men will stand there looking at it
(impersonates man, with finger on chin, pretending to think deeply on matter)
“Hmmmm. I think you’re right”
One of the regulars asked is there was a chance of any work here. I can’t belive they’d want to work as a Barrista.
It’s the labour exchange here. People with no work spend all day here, stringing out their one coffee, using the internet to look for jobs, or to write. Now some are asking for a job here. The ones who do work here earn so little that they’re actually worse off than the ones sitting down, but they’re still waiting for one of us to leave in the hope they can get a position.
The only ones who seem to win are the dishonest managers, and these shallow, pretentious people with money, theater goers and the like, who come in here and whom we have to serve and flatter, whilst they complain about where the cake signs are situated.
You might wonder why we’re Barristas. I can tell you it’s rarely a person who loves making a coffee. It’s just a job. Most of these guys will never make a good coffee; they don’t know, and the owners rarely care as long as the till fills up. He thinks he makes a coffee, but he creates black water. Even if you are interested in making a good coffee, you’re always fighting against owners buying cheaper beans, and just general low standards and lack of care. I’m embarrassed to serve this coffee to customers.
There aren’t many real barristas around. I’m talking of the ones on a quest for the ultimate coffee, who take a pride in their craft, who experiment with new latte art. No, most of them just happen to do it for a living. The guy’s there because he hasn’t got anything else to do.
(breaks Markos out of his talk to audience)
I just want to pop out for 5 minutes and make a call to my girlfriend, is that ok?
CAFE, AFTERNOON, MARKOS AT COUNTER LOOKING LIKE HE HAS SOMETHING ON HIS MIND. NIK COMES IN
Markos, what’s up?
I caught the idiot stealing money from the tips bowl.
What! What happened?
He came in to start his day, and I saw him looking at the bowl. I had my back to him whilst I cleaned the machine, and as I turned around I saw him putting some money in his pocket. He just left a little in the bowl
What did you do?
I asked him ‘What the fuck are you doing?’. He says ‘I’m just counting’. I said ‘I saw you put the money in your pocket’
I’ve told him he cannot get away with that, that money is for all of us. Nik will you be ok, I’m going to talk to the manageress – she must do something about this.
IN A ROOM, MARKOS AND MANAGERESS TALKING, THOUGH WE DON’T SEE HER
He took the tips. It’s not right. It’s not for him. He can have some, but not all of them.
How can you say you don’t care? You only care about the money in the till?! But even if you don’t care about us, tell me: if he’s not honest how much is going to be in the till in the end?
You don’t want me to come back tomorrow? How can you do this? Don’t you feel any shame? You know I’m hard-working, and you know he’s stealing. These guys are laughing at you, can’t you see that?
What a life! You can’t work honestly and afford to live. Where’s decency?
(MARKOS OPENS DOOR OF SMALL NEWSAGENT, AND WALKS UP TO COUNTER. SHOPKEEPER THAT WE CAN’T SEE THERE)
I’ll have a packet of 20
(waits, picks up packet of fags off counter)
Thank you. How much is that?
(Markos shows surprise – they cost more than he expected)
They’ve gone up.
(Markos puts hands in pocket, takes out money. Counts it, can see it’s not quite enough)
This is some of it
(Markos searches other pockets, finds some coins, but it’s not enough)
That’s 94, 95, 96…. I’m sorry I don’t have the extra three pence
(Markos watches the shopkeeper take the cigarettes from the counter and put them away)
My friend it’s only three pence. And I’ve really had a bad day
(Markos waits with some surprise that shopkeeper doesn’t give him the packet. Starts picking up the change)
Well you certainly won’t become known as a great Indian Philanthropist. Philanthropy…it’s a Greek word…you probably don’t have it in your language.
(Markos leaves shop)
Even smoking is now slowly becoming a preserve of the few. Dishonest business people and their cronies prosper, the rich don’t care, and decent poor people are edged out. Slavery is back in this country, and it’s being tolerated.
(shouts) Let’s have a riot, fuck this crooked system!
LIGHTS OUT – THE END