Cafe society



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CAFE SOCIETY

a play in two acts


by Pam Gems

Copyright © Pam Gems

Pam Gems is hereby identified as author of this work in accordance with section 77 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. The author has asserted her moral rights.
All rights whatsoever in this play are strictly reserved and application for performance etc. should be made before rehearsal to Rose Cobbe, United Agents, 12-26 Lexington Street, London W1F 0LE, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 20 3214 0800.

http://unitedagents.co.uk/agents/rose-cobbe/. Assistant: Dan Usztan. Email: dusztan@unitedagents.co.uk Tel: +44 (0) 20 3214 0873. No performance may be given unless a licence has been obtained.


CAFE SOCIETY


CAST

JUNE
ARMANDINE
MABEL
PAM
INEZ
AMY
GINGER/MARVENNA

CAFE SOCIETY


SCENE ONE.
Inside the Violet Cafe and Book Bar in North Kensington, near the canal. The interior is unusual. Upstage is a raised area with an old leather sofa, a large bookcase, a desk and a chair. There is a low table with books and magazines. On the desk is a maquette made of angle iron. A window up centre.
The main area of the cafe has tables and chairs and one secluded banquette down right. There are four exits - down right to the bathroom/lavatory, up right to the exterior and Mabel's studio, up left beyond the bar to the kitchen and down left the public exit. The tables and chairs are all different - nothing matches. The tables are covered in chenille and velvet cloths in inky colours, green, purple and red. Vases in iridescent colours glow. There is a large metal structure reaching up, austere and watchful. Left is the bar, facing downstage on the diagonal with the cafe's name in glowing purple italic. Two of the tables are set for a meal. Music is switched on suddenly. It is Wagner, very loud. Someone shouts. The music is switched off.
Pause.
A FIGURE wearing goggles and a strange head-cover rising to a point over her forehead, and a very old boiler suit emerges from the kitchen and walks across the stage carrying a metal-cutter. The music surges again. The strange WOMAN returns, muttering, without the metal-cutter, goes back into the kitchen. The music stops.
Silence. Then the sound of the cafe doorbell.
JUNE ROSTEN enters. She is in her thirties, thin, in a brown cloth coat with flat shoes, a large sensible bag and a man's black umbrella. She should, with these clothes, look nothing, but there is an angularity, a way of standing - she has a style of her own. She looks round uncertainly, hangs up her umbrella and makes for the banquette.
PAM

(Hidden on the other side of the banquette) Do you mind?
JUNE

(Jumps back, startled) I'm sorry.
JUNE is unnerved. MABEL, now divested of mask and boiler suit, enters. She is rangy, in loose battered trousers and a short-sleeved white t-shirt. What is remarkable is her hair. It is bright blue and dressed forward and up to an eight inch peak, like the horn of a unicorn. JUNE gawps.
MABEL

Borscht?
JUNE can only nod. She sinks back onto the other side of the banquette. She relaxes slightly, looking round with interest at a large modern painting of Leda and the Swan, then takes a book from her bag, finds the page. A mobile phone rings. PAM, out of view, begins to talk, at first in a low voice, but soon getting louder. JUNE reads her book.
PAM

You don't want to do that.
Because it's a waste of time!

JUNE turns a page.
PAM

Just get him in the garage, lock the doors and start up the motor!
JUNE sits bolt upright.
PAM

The guy's sick! If it wasn't for Tracie I'd have shopped him long ago.
I told you - he touched her thing!
And have it all come out her Daddy's a pervert? It's bad for business!
JUNE leans back, listening, mouth open.
PAM

Look I know you feel bad about leaving Christine.
Of course she's depressed but it could happen to anybody it's not as though you infected her on purpose.
I gotta go, I left a woman under the dryer.
She appears from the other side of the banquette as JUNE, in a panic, rises to escape. PAM wears a spiked hair-do, a red jacket, short black patent leather skirt and 'pickers. She gives JUNE a terrifying glare and goes. JUNE, shaken, reaches for her bag and book, crosses to the exit, and bumps into a large WOMAN in leathers and a helmet. They side-step each other, then the WOMAN barges passed, flattening JUNE.

JUNE scrambles for her bag, which has burst open, and her book. The WOMAN takes off her gloves, scarf, helmet, silver suit and boots. Out of all this steps a dark, vivid WOMAN in a maroon jump-suit. She straightens herself, runs a hand through her hair and approaches JUNE genially.
WOMAN

Bowled you over, huh?
She hauls JUNE to her feet.
ARMANDINE

And who are you?
JUNE rises shyly.
JUNE

June Rosten.
ARMANDINE

Armandine de Winter.
ARMANDINE surveys JUNE, then draws out a chair noisily for JUNE to sit and sits across from her.
ARMANDINE

To what do we owe the pleasure?
JUNE

I'm sorry?
ARMANDINE

You look as though you've never heard the word. (Yells) Mabel!
MABEL looks out, disappears. ARMANDINE takes a white cloth napkin from the table, tucks it into her neck. Picks up JUNE'S book, looks at it casually.
MABEL arrives with soup in a plated tureen. She puts it down with bread in large chunks, a ladle, bowls, and a smaller bowl.
MABEL

(Sets down the bowl) Sour cream.
She goes. ARMANDINE indicates for JUNE to serve her. JUNE gives her a serving, she nods for more, and helps herself liberally to cream and bread. JUNE serves herself and lifts her spoon nervously.
ARMANDINE

So - what wafts you to this time-warp hamlet of old Bohemia?
(She looks up, scowling.)
It wasn't that bitch Shelley?
JUNE

No.
They eat, ARMANDINE head down.
ARMANDINE

(Without looking up) You're sitting in her seat.
JUNE

I beg your pardon?
ARMANDINE

Alexandra Slatkin.
JUNE

(Puts down her spoon) The poet?
Alexandra Slatkin?
Sits here?
In this chair?
ARMANDINE

You like her stuff?
JUNE

Very much! (Touches her book) Not that she isn't sometimes syntactically worrying -
- the missing particles -
ARMANDINE

(In a heavy Russian accent) "Kom eento gahrdon, Mod - blek bet is floying..."
JUNE laughs.
ARMANDINE

You look quite different when you laugh.
She rises, crosses to the bar, gets a half-full bottle of vodka and two glasses, returns, pours for two.
ARMANDINE

Got a pen?
JUNE takes a pen from her bag. ARMANDINE marks the level on the vodka bottle.
JUNE

This soup is heavenly.
May I ask - are you a poet?
ARMANDINE

Of course.
JUNE

I thought so.
ARMANDINE

And a playwright.
I'm working on a piece about Joan.
JUNE

Of Arc?
ARMANDINE

Naturally. It's been done before of course - GBS had a go. Totally inauthentic.
JUNE

You see her from the woman's angle?
ARMANDINE

You could say that. Whichever way you look, she was show-biz.
JUNE

Ye-es.
I think I see what you mean.
What is your play called?
ARMANDINE

Joan the Musical.
JUNE smiles politely.
They eat. JUNE leans forward.
JUNE

Tell me.
Do you - I mean - her voices...do you think she actually -
- will your approach be -
ARMANDINE eats.
JUNE

- some say she was no more than a puppet, used by powerful -
- and, of course, some say she escaped the fire.
ARMANDINE

Not in my musical she doesn't - well, depends on the budget. I may send her to the Crusades, or let her take over Italy with Garibaldi.
Shouts and bangs from the kitchen, making JUNE jump.
ARMANDINE

(Eating her soup) It's only Ray.
JUNE

I'm sorry?
ARMANDINE

The chef. Probably some guy delivering.
She hates men. One tried to kiss her once.
MABEL sticks her head round the door.
MABEL

Profiterolles?
JUNE

Ooh, please...
ARMANDINE

(To MABEL) Don't you dare!
MABEL shrugs, goes.

ARMANDINE

I'm on the Eat Like a Fruit Fly and Save Your Life diet.
So - what do you do, June?
JUNE

Me?
ARMANDINE

(Scraping the soup tureen) No, Renee Fleming.
JUNE

I'm a tax consultant.
ARMANDINE

A tax consultant?
JUNE offers her a napkin to wipe the soup from her face. ARMANDINE puts her face towards JUNE to wipe it. So she does, awkwardly. ARMANDINE goes upstage, finds a cigarillo.
ARMANDINE

My pad. En passant. Sometimes you need a backwater.
She returns, lights up the cigarillo with a flame-thrower, sits back, assessing JUNE.
ARMANDINE

A tax consultant, eh?
JUNE

Not very interesting.
ARMANDINE

Oh I don't know. (She pours more vodka.)
She watches as JUNE sips shyly.
ARMANDINE

Every done any Spanish dancing?
JUNE

No, never.
ARMANDINE

You should, you'd be good at it.
And wear a hat, you've got the face for it.
More yelling from the kitchen. MABEL comes from the kitchen.
MABEL

Sorry, no coffee. (Jerks her head kitchenwards) Root canal. The dentist's still on the window ledge.
ARMANDINE

De nada.
MABEL stops in her tracks at this mild response, shrugs and goes.
ARMANDINE

Where do you live?
JUNE

Acton.
ARMANDINE

Flat?
JUNE

Yes.
ARMANDINE

How many bedrooms?
JUNE

Three - it was my parents'.
ARMANDINE

Where are they?
JUNE

Dead.
ARMANDINE

Good, have you got a room to spare?
JUNE

Well -
ARMANDINE

I need somewhere to work. (Rises.) Where's your car?
JUNE

Outside.
ARMANDINE grabs a coat from by the door, shepherds the bewildered and tipsy JUNE offstage.
SCENE TWO.
MABEL enters, pours herself a drink. The bar telephone rings. She picks it up.
MABEL

Yeah? Oh - Maurice. Hullo-o...of course not, of course not cher Maurice.
Have you had your shower?
And are you wearing your silk jimjams?
...which ones, the gold or the black... oh that sounds wonderful...
...oh, lovely, Maurice. Put your toes out I'm going to buffer them with my soft, shammy leather...very, very gently, Maurice. Then I'm going to lick your toes, Maurice, and after that...good, Maurice - good...very good...very good, Maurice...
SCENE THREE.
PAM, in pink overall, leans against the green banquette, with AMY, a client. AMY has her hair in rollers, and wears a pink smock.
PAM

Backwards?
AMY

Yes! There he was, walking backwards across the parquet with one eye dangling on his chest. Like that. Like a pendant. (Points to her bosom.)
PAM

Cripes.
AMY

I was as white as a sheet.
PAM

Well you would be. Just as well the vet was in.
AMY

I know - he's usually down the sauna. I'm still in shock.
PAM

Is he OK?
AMY

Oh yes, he's a lot more better, apart from the tablets.
PAM

It's easy. Grab his chops, force his head back and shove the pills down his throat. He has to swallow or choke.
AMY

He chokes. Brought down the curtain rail yesterday.
PAM

But he's looking up.
AMY

Not literally. He's lost his independence, Pam. He's all clingy and waily.
PAM

Get him doctored, that'll settle him down. Shouldn't you be under the dryer?
AMY

In a way.
She wanders off. PAM takes her mobile from her overall pocket and dials.
PAM

Can you talk?
What do you mean?
That's ridiculous, why not? for Christ's sake, the SAS don't have no trouble.
Because I want you to! Get your finger out - go for it. I can't stop, I got a weave and two streaks. Fucking skates on, OK?
She takes a large hamburger from its plastic box, bites into it savagely and goes, the burger in her mouth.
SCENE FOUR.
MABEL is seated on a bar stool, with the telephone.
MABEL

...Julian, you wicked, wicked boy, lie back and think of breasts and nanny bending over you in her white apron smelling of carbolic and stay with lovely Classic FM and drift...drift...
...no, don't get up, just lie back...
...no, one pillow will do...
...lie back and think of clouds and lovely sandy beaches...warm breezes...
Drift...drift...
...enjoy...enjoy...oh, you have - good. Ciao, darling, à la bonne heure...kissy, kissy...mmmmmm..
She makes kissing noises into the telephone, replaces the receiver and yells.
MABEL

Has that squid arrived? (A stream of abuse.)
(At the open kitchen door) What? OK, you'll have to defile the turkey.
What?
When?
(Sighs) All right...make it fur coats.
She rubs out the menu on the blackboard, thinks, then writes in large letters.
MABEL

Dindon - a - la - mode.
ARMANDINE and JUNE enter and divest themselves of bike gear.
JUNE

What about the Arts Council?
ARMANDINE

You kidding? They don't spend money on artists.
JUNE

I thought that's what they were for.
(Reading a leaflet) There are these things called Project Grants.
ARMANDINE

Yeah, for chancers who don't need them.
JUNE

That doesn't make sense.
ARMANDINE

The Arts Council need players. What do you think they're in it for - good works?
MABEL

(Enters) Trouble?
JUNE

It's the musical.
MABEL

What musical?
ARMANDINE

The one I'm doing auditions for.
MABEL

Where?
ARMANDINE

Here.
MABEL

When?
ARMANDINE

Now.
MABEL looks from one to the other. She sees that they are serious.
MABEL

Not that crap about Joan of Arc? (Silence.)
Who's producing it? (ARMANDINE indicates JUNE.)
Who's directing?
ARMANDINE

You are.
MABEL

There is no musical.
There never was a musical.
There will be no musical.
ARMANDINE

Yes there will.
MABEL

No there won't.
ARMANDINE

Why not?

MABEL

Because you've got no money.
ARMANDINE

We're working on that.
MABEL

Snowflake in hell.
JUNE

There is some hope.
MABEL

(To ARMANDINE) What are you up to?
ARMANDINE

Nothing.
MABEL

Come on -
She shakes ARMANDINE.
JUNE

Mabel...!
MABEL

(To JUNE) How much have you given her?
JUNE

I'm proud and honoured to -
MABEL

How much?
ARMANDINE

Mind your own business.
MABEL

How much, June?
JUNE

Not enough, alas.
MABEL

So get out now before she sets fire to your place for the insurance -
- ah, been suggested already, I see.
JUNE

Only as a joke.
Silence. MABEL looks from one to the other.
MABEL

Oh no.
Not again.

She hasn't.
Don't you dare to tell me -
ARMANDINE

Shut up, it's no business of yours!
MABEL

(To JUNE) She hasn't asked you to -
ARMANDINE makes to reply, JUNE restrains her.
JUNE

(To ARMANDINE) Please.
(To MABEL) Mabel, Armandine suggested that we sell my flat to finance Joan the Musical -
MABEL

June - DON'T!


ARMANDINE

It was a hideous bloody place - right by the railway!
MABEL

Was? Did you say was?
ARMANDINE

Two guys from Clerkenwell moved in this morning.
MABEL

Fuck.
ARMANDINE

Why should she spend the rest of her life doing the draggy bits for people who know how to live!
MABEL

Fuck!
ARMANDINE

Where you sleep is not the point...
ART is the point.
GINGER

(At the door) Sorry - is this the place for the auditions?
ARMANDINE

Yes.
MABEL

No, shove off.
GINGER

OK. (Goes.)
MABEL stands helpless as JUNE manhandles luggage to the upstage area. ARMANDINE throws herself down on the sofa, puts her feet up. JUNE passes MABEL timidly, exits. MABEL turns to set upon ARMANDINE but the doorbell goes
MABEL

The audition's off! - oh, it's you, Amy. How's Denis?
AMY squints up at the menu board.
AMY

(Shakes her head sadly) I'll have the ding-dong.
(Sits) What is it?
MABEL

Rabbit.
AMY

Is it tame?
MABEL

It is now.
AMY

Only I don't want something that's died of something.
MABEL

I'll tell Ray.
(She yells through the hatch) One fur coat - ranch farmed.
JUNE returns with a bin-bag and books. Again MABEL is deflected as a WOMAN, exotically dressed, with enormous rings and heavy necklaces, enters, opens her arms. MABEL approaches and they embrace.
MABEL

Inez! I thought you were in Hong-Kong!
ARMANDINE, on the sofa, looks over without favour.
INEZ

(Kisses MABEL) Mwah!
Ar-mand-ine!
ARMANDINE

Hi.
INEZ advances and embraces her.
INEZ

Let me look at you - my God!
ARMANDINE

(Sits up) What?


INEZ

You have Neptune ascending!
ARMANDINE

What does that mean?
MABEL looks skywards and goes into the kitchen.
INEZ indicates for ARMANDINE to join her. ARMANDINE comes and sits down. INEZ sits across from her and takes her palm. Silence. Then she looks up.
INEZ

Be bold. Be brave. Risk all. And who is this little beast?
ARMANDINE

This is June Rosten. My producer.
JUNE

Hullo.
INEZ

Enchantée. (To ARMANDINE) You finished the musical?
ARMANDINE

All except the music.
INEZ

What mood do you want - tango is good.
JUNE

The play is about Joan of Arc.
INEZ

Oh - big fire! I know just the guy - out next week.
MABEL appears with food for INEZ and AMY.
INEZ

(Sniffs appreciatively) Mmm, and this is - ?
MABEL

Rabbit. As chicken.
INEZ

Why? Chicken is cheaper.


MABEL

Not if the rabbit's free.
June, meet Inez. Tell her everything.

INEZ

Trust me, I'm a woman.
MABEL

Not like that sod Bernard...well, actually he is a woman now.
ARMANDINE

No, that's his brother, Elaine.
INEZ stops eating and sits up with a spooky look on her face.
MABEL

Sssh...
INEZ

Has anybody...in this room...(she sways gently) ...been dreaming of Tom Cruise?
JUNE

Oh! (They turn to her.) Me...last night!
That's amazing!
INEZ

Was he wearing Armani?
JUNE

I'm not sure.
INEZ

If he was you're due for a tax rebate.
GINGER appears at the door.
GINGER

Any chance of a job?
MABEL

(Without looking) Yeah, go on - in there.
GINGER goes into the kitchen. The doorbell goes. It is PAM. She looks round, glaring.


MABEL

He's not here.
PAM

What?
MABEL

He was here but he had to go, he wasn't feeling well.
There was an accident.
PAM

(Livening up) An accident! What sort of accident?
MABEL

An explosion.
PAM

(Excited) Who else was hurt?
MABEL

Only him.
PAM

What do you mean?
MABEL

There was another bloke but he was thrown clear.
PAM mutters, viciously, goes.
INEZ

Who was that?
MABEL

Pam - hairdresser.
ARMANDINE

Married to a sadist.
MABEL

Sadist!
ARMANDINE

She says he's an animal.


MABEL

The little guy with the glasses? (She laughs.)
INEZ

(To MABEL) Is it true?
About the Biennale?
MABEL slides off the bar stool.
MABEL

D'you want to see the maquettes?
INEZ follows MABEL off right. AMY takes out a blue plastic box, takes INEZ'S meat, puts it in the box and closes the lid.
AMY

(To JUNE) For Denis.
She does up her coat and goes. JUNE puts books away upstage. ARMANDINE helps herself to a drink at the bar. JUNE comes down to her, smiles.
ARMANDINE

What's up with you?
JUNE

I'm happy.


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