Natasha Ali tells the story behind her new play, The Babbling Barista Monologues with Pitch Productions.
Let’s back track a little. I’d like to tell everyone a story.
During the 2019 summer holidays, I did nothing but write and read. Write and read and work at Starbucks. It was bad. Imagine getting through thirty books, writing two musicals, two plays, god knows how many monologues and a novella in two months. Not mentioning a trip to the Edinburgh Fringe that added another twenty thousand or so experiences to the ever-increasing watch list. It wasn’t impressive. I was manic, erratic and desperate to constantly be productive when I really should’ve just sat down and watched season three of Stranger Things like the rest of the student population.
The Babbling Barista Monologues was a week-long binge writing session. A one-woman show using every story about my three years at Starbucks I could muster up. I’d burnt myself out, but I didn’t stop. I just used my own life to keep writing.
Pitch Productions agreed to develop it right before this year started (thank you very much, by the way). Only one problem, they wanted it to have a bigger cast. I’d have to edit and rework the entire script. So, I ended up turning my little one-woman show into a four-person extravaganza in the first two weeks of this year. I would sit outside the Cathedral in the freezing cold at night and write until I couldn’t feel my hands because it made me type faster. When it was done, I jumped straight onto directing Ordinary Days and when that was done, auditions for this started.
Second term is where things got fun. My cast are a beautiful wholesome collection of interesting humans and I couldn’t be happier with the stories they’ve helped put on stage. Using an actual café to work in has been incredibly entertaining and hearing words I made with my overactive brain get said out loud to me is just awesome; this has been an amazingly fun show to put energy into.
Why have I turned this writer’s note into a diary entry? Well, that’s the thing. This is a bunch of stories about Starbucks. A series of scenes with a different annoying customer or strange business practice in each one. But it’s also a bunch of stories about me. Everything in it happened to me. The reactions are all me because the characters are all me. Or what used to be me. A nerd, a scientist, a goody-two-shoes and a sarcastic well-read know it all. And knowing how this play happened is much more interesting than me telling you everything that goes down in the show.
If you want to hear about that, you’ll have to watch it.
Thank you to the following humans: Owen Kennedy for reading my first draft and letting me perform at his Cornelius Peach open mic; Pitch Productions, and Ellen Tapp for not only agreeing to make this but also being my producer and dealing with me going offline for days at a time; Ella Al-Khahil Doyle, Anthony Ford, Matthew Redmond and Isabella Thompson for being a phenomenal cast to work with; Andrea Valdivieso for assistant producing; the Ordinary Days cast and TDTC exec for letting me rant about this; Dylan Bunyan for teching; Cafédral for letting us use the venue; Jonny McCausland for doing that cringey old believing-in-me thing; all my fellow baristas, but especially the ones at the Taplow and Beaconsfield Starbucks; and every single person who comes and watches this show.
The Babbling Barista Monologues will be performed at Cafédral on 28th and 29th February.