Cafe culture - of a sort

BEAN THERE: Screenwriter and The Dominion Post cartoonist Tom Scott has written his second play Caffeine Warriors, set in a cafe.
BEAN THERE: Screenwriter and The Dominion Post cartoonist Tom Scott has written his second play Caffeine Warriors, set in a cafe.

It sounds like a perfect brew that could result in a caffeine hit of a different kind. Inspired by spending many mornings in a Wellington cafe, Tom Scott has written a play that is not only set in a cafe, but will be performed in one.

A reading of Caffeine Warriors by its cast will be given at Prefab cafe in central Wellington on Friday evening.

The comedy – Scott's second play since his 2012 hit The Daylight Atheist – will be staged in a new function space being constructed at Prefab which can hold up to 200 people. The space, which includes a mezzanine level and state of the art sound and lighting system, will be ready in time for Caffeine Warriors stage debut in April.

The Dominion Post cartoonist says using Prefab also made sense because its owners Jeff Kennedy and Bridget Dunn used to own Cafe L'Affare nearby. Scott was a regular for several years at Cafe L'Affare – but now divides his cafe time between it and Prefab.

Scott says it was numerous hours at the cafes talking to friends, including actor and director and occasional collaborator Danny Mulheron, and making friends with other cafe regulars, that started the idea about a year ago for a play set in a cafe percolating in his mind

"They would make me laugh and in a nice, friendly way we'd poke sticks at these other people [in the cafe]. Some times I'd be driving home and thinking ' that was quite funny. That dialogue this morning was entertaining.' I pulled over to the side of the road and pulled out my little caffeine notebook."

As well as laughs, Scott says he learned things from other cafe frequenters that he may not have learned elsewhere. It included a friend over several months detailing the decline of his elderly mother. "He would talk about it quite openly and quite touchingly and affectionately. One day he came and told us she had died. We got wine and went off to another restaurant."

The cast for Caffeine Warriors will include William Kircher, who plays Bifur the dwarf in The Hobbit. Scott says the play's main characters are a "30-year-old, a 40-year-old, a 50-year-old, 60-year-old and a late-20s waitress. It's not a whole bunch of oldies and these are people who would not necessarily be friends outside of a coffee bar. Some of those guys – I have never been to their home and they have never been to mine. You just meet for coffee."

The fictional cafe's owner is a gay man. "Gay men are important. Evolution threw them up to be graphite between the sexes. They have a really important role."

Scott's theatrical debut The Daylight Atheist, which starred the late Grant Tilly, was a hit with audiences in 2002 and praised by critics. There were return seasons, a national tour and more kudos for performances in Australia. But Scott quotes John Lennon's song Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) to explain why it's taken 12 years to write his second: "life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans".

Scott says a combination of other projects including television comedy series Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby, TV movie Rage and his feature film debut Separation City, took up his time. He is also working on a second TV movie The Kick with Mulheron.

But Scott says he already has plans for another play after Caffeine Warriors. The Daylight Atheist was inspired by his father. He plans to write a play inspired by his mother, who died two years ago. "She is worthy of a play. She was just funny and really entertaining." Scott gives an example of his mother's quips, and in her Irish accent: "No sad songs of my funeral. If I hear I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen my fist will come through the top of the f...... coffin."

Jeff Kennedy says he had always planned on having a function space for his cafe after it opened. It will seat between 100 and 150 with tables or 200 without. But while it could be used for private functions or conferences, Kennedy says it will also be a performance space. As well at theatre, it had been designed to accommodate music, including classical, he says.


A reading of Caffeine Warriors is at Prefab, 14 Jessie St, Wellington on Friday, 7pm.

The Dominion Post