River Kitchen, Nelson

19/10/2015 - 24/10/2015

The Dry Dock, Wharf St, Tauranga

27/10/2015 - 31/10/2015

Federal Diner, Wanaka

21/04/2015 - 26/04/2015

Tauranga Arts Festival 2015

Festival of Colour 2015

Nelson Arts Festival 2015

Production Details

John’s café is usually fairly busy, but in the last few months it has seen a massive spike in its popularity. The place is humming. Veteran café owner John puts it down to his experience in creating the perfect vibe for his customers. But hipster barista and onsite coffee-roaster Che has unwittingly developed a very special blend of coffee that will change people’s lives… 

By the time everyone has made the connection between being opened up to their truths, and Che’s magic beans… there’s only enough for one more cup. Who gets it? Who needs it most? 

The final chapter in the site-specific series (HOTEL, SALON) lets us tune in to the buzz of the coffee house; a funny, caffeinated, delightful work of new New Zealand theatre, premiering at the Festival of Colour. 


Site Specific Theatre take real locations as the inspiration for new works of theatre and the show you’ll experience tonight is the final chapter in a trilogy of plays – HOTEL, SALON and now CAFÉ. The plays have inter- linked themes and characters, but also stand alone as self-contained works. 

In CAFÉ we explore the worlds of those who work in coffee bars and those who patronise them: what are the stories told and untold by all? We were especially interested in the boom of cafe culture, where beans and blends are now savoured and created by the high priests of the coffee trade – the roaster/barista. But what about the owners? The down-trodden table staff? The regulars? 

The team who created the play spent a long time exploring these people and creating a play we hope you will find enjoyable, booming on the tongue, with hints of pathos and with a long, satisfying aftertaste… 

Supported by Auckland Arts Festival, New Zealand Festival, Tauranga Arts Festival, Nelson Arts Festival and Kokomai.

Venue kindly provided by Federal Diner.

CAFÉ has been percolating for a long time… we’re stoked to be able to serve it up fresh here in Wanaka for the premiere season. 

WHEN:  Tuesday 21 – Sunday 26 April 2015, 5pm & 7pm
WHERE:  Federal Diner, Wanaka
DURATION:  55 minutes 

River Kitchen
Mon 19 – Sat 24 Oct, 6pm & 7.30pm
55 mins, no interval
GROUPS OF 6+ $37 pp (group bookings must be made at Theatre Royal)
Plus TicketDirect Service Fee 

The Dry Dock, Wharf St
Tuesday 27th – Friday 30th October, 05:00pm & 07:00pm 
Call The Dry Dock to pre-order nibbles: 07 577 1537  

CAST (in order of appearance)
CHE – barista:  Jack Sergent-Shadbolt 
MICHAEL – a regular:  Peter Hambleton 
JEREMY (J R) – owner:  John Landreth 
ANITA – barista/waitress:  Neenah Dekkers-Reihana 
JUDY – a regular:  Andrea Beryl 

Theatre , Site-specific/site-sympathetic ,


Reflects our passion for coffee, cafes and perfection

Review by Gin Mabey 28th Oct 2015

A familiar activity: catching up with a friend at one of the best cafes in town (The Dry Dock) – only this time we are watching theatre, rather than sipping and nibbling. There is a tall guy at the coffee machine, pottering about doing coffee things. The customers/audience are chattering away.

‘Can’t Get Enough’ by Supergroove starts blasting, indicating the start of the show. The young ‘hipster’ barista Che (Jack Sergent-Shadbolt), the café owner Jeremy (John Landreth) who can’t move on, the regular customer Michael (Peter Hambleton), the young-mum waitress Anita (Neenah Dekkers-Reihana) and the spacey hippy customer Judy (Jaine Kirtley) all move about the space with great ease and truly allow us to believe for a while that this café is their domain.

Cafe, by Site-Specific Theatre New Zealand, is off to a great start.

The writing – by Rachel Callinan and director Paul McLaughlin – is very clever and lovingly takes the piss out of the fanatical coffee culture we see these days. Che bursts into Ginsberg-esque rants about the qualities of his personally crafted new coffee. Jack is a very talented actor and is really fun to watch. But more than a piss-take, this play reflects a modern passion of our time: coffee, cafes and perfection.

My favourite part of this show is the crisp comic writing and the thoughtful, engaging performances. I’m not too fussed about the plot/story or the outcome. It’s not a show where I feel anything for the characters or care much about the story. I feel warm towards the characters but they are a snapshot, not a full investment. Rather, I like to watch the subtle yet spot-on observations about the café culture we know so well.

The use of the café itself isn’t clunky or awkward at all, and that in itself is great to watch. There are no contrived movements or bad choices by the actors because they are truly ‘doing what they are doing’ which is a wonderful by-product of site-specific theatre.  

A great show. 


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A decaf feel over all

Review by Daniel Allan 20th Oct 2015

Café is a site-specific piece which flows in and around the assembled audience like a well-frothed crema. In its poetic explorations of the psychology of café inhabitants it does for coffee culture what Foreskin’s Lament does for rugby, albeit in a much lighter and more comedic way.

Action skips between pairings of characters who are either at the counter of the real-life café River Kitchen, or in and around the audience at tables. Deft applications of volume from the actors are all that is required to switch focus.

Che is a millennial barista who has concocted a new single-source Nicaraguan coffee blend to end all coffee blends. Jack Sergent-Shadbolt’s opening monologue, that describes the taste of the coffee in performance poetry style, immediately endears us to him. He brings an increasing impressive verbal pomp to proceedings, delivering Rachel Callinan and Paul McLaughlin’s clever words with aplomb.

Che’s colleague Anita (Neenah Dekkers-Reihana) is the heart of the play. Her affair with much older regular customer Michael (Peter Hambleton) is never going to work and these two deliver several touching moments.

Then there’s Jeremy (J R: John Landreth), the café owner, who struts restlessly around his own environment with a bull terrier mixture of machismo and vulnerability, and locally cast Melanie Stewart, in the smaller role of Judy, the bead lady. While I’m nervous for Stewart as she meekly enters amid such acting fire-power, her performance is brilliant. She blends in with her crossword at a table with audience members, interjecting with perfect cueing when required, and Judy’s final scene with Che is a perfectly pitched wee twist in that particular tale.

While the performance is site-specific it is not as interactive as it could be. Aside from the direct address of Che to one particular audience member, and the odd token table wipe, the fourth wall remains basically in place. It is slightly awkward for the actors to try for complete realism by sitting among the audience, while at the same time having to project to the dispersed audience across a relatively large room. Perhaps more could have been done to get us all seated in one area, while also getting us more engaged with drink deliveries and salutary remarks that might have heightened the café experience. 

A more interactive experience might have made up for the uneven plot. While intoxication is never the cleverest device, the accidental hallucinogenic high that the characters one by one gain from Che’s brew is at least a good motor for an escalation of their problems and idiosyncrasies, but not to any great heights.

We are left with a collection of melancholic conclusions, as the characters realise that they cannot escape their personal responsibilities. A come down in both senses.

While the flavour is promising, I’m left overall with a decaf feel. It’s a good show, but not one to keep me up at night. 


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Brilliant at times with potential to develop

Review by Viv Milsom 23rd Apr 2015

Wanaka’s Federal Diner proves an ideal location for Site Specific Theatre’s latest play, Café. The actors can move freely around the tables and behind the counter, while the audience become the customers, sitting at the tables. The concept is great and the audience enjoys being an integral part of the production. 

With plenty of laughs, Café is silly and fun, and the actors work well together to create some memorable moments, like barista Che’s lofty monologue taking the mickey out of Kiwis’ devotion to coffee culture. 

Che, played by Jack Sergent-Shadbolt, is developing a new coffee himself, a single source Colombian roast he wants to call Donkey Shit. But does he know exactly what he is brewing?

Jeremy the café owner, played by John Landreth, is not impressed but he has his own problems. Although close to retirement age, clearly the café is all he has in life and he doesn’t want to let go. The problem is he doesn’t seem to have anything to do at the café either, and so spends too much time wandering around with a dishcloth in hand, staring a lot at the café customers. His cell phone calls help, but director Paul McLaughlin needs to find more genuine work for Landreth on stage.

Then there’s Michael, one of the regulars, played by Peter Hambleton. Wealthy, bald and aging, he has fallen for Anita – you guessed it – the young, attractive waitress who already has a boyfriend and young son. Neenah Dekkers-Reihana creates a delightful character but both she and Hambleton struggle to convince the audience that this relationship could possibly have legs.

The other regular is Judy, played by Andrea Beryl. Her main focus is the crossword. Fair enough but it would have been interesting to see her become more meaningfully involved with the other characters.

Ultimately, though, all the actors are let down by Rachel Callinan and Paul McLaughlin’s script which, while brilliant at times, lacks overall depth and coherence. 

Café has the potential to develop into a much stronger piece of theatre.


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