20 – 25 Feb 2023
Hello there! I’m Liz (they/them), writer of Takeaway. The team and I wanted to provide some detailed information on the content of the show, so that you can make an informed decision about whether it’s the show for you.
Takeaway is an ensemble comedy about eight characters, set in the staff room of a mediocre Italian restaurant in a basic Australian country town. It is primarily intended to be fun and funny, with a big beating heart and an optimistic ending; everyone making this show also happens to be fun and funny and have big beating hearts. There has been much care and consideration put into every moment.
Takeaway does, however, explore more than one topic some audience members may find difficult to sit with.
It contains depictions of, or discussion of, the following: unplanned pregnancy, abortion, homophobia, transphobia, racism, ovarian cancer, homelessness, death, corpses, and mortality.
I want to note that in the specific case of “transphobia”, this relates to the experiences of a nonbinary character named Darcy. They are a well-liked part of the restaurant team, content with their job, secure in their identity, and glad for their easily accepting co-workers. Proper details in the synopsis below.
Please read on for a full synopsis of the play if you’d like to know more—but be aware the below contains many, many spoilers! Maybe ask a friend to read for you, and then you can quiz them later.
We begin with a staff meeting, where most of the gang are present. Manager Lou is trying to convince Assistant Manager Tyler to don the ridiculous chicken suit—a repurposed mascot costume—and play host for the kids’ birthday party happening later. Tyler’s refusing. On the sidelines, bartender Charity stirs the pot, former employee Clem tries to give Lou backup, kitchen hand Darcy tries to keep the peace, waiter Vas tries not to take sides, while new recruit Alma watches it all unfold with wide eyes.
Lou leaves to take a phone call from her on-again, off-again boyfriend, which gives Charity space to tease Clem with a lie about Charity giving Clem’s boyfriend a blowjob. Confused as to why Tyler won’t do as she’s told, Alma asks for details, and Tyler informs her she’s only working at the restaurant as a momentary pitstop in her journey to stardom.
Lou returns rattled and threatens to fire Tyler if she doesn’t don the chicken suit, and Tyler calls Lou’s bluff by threatening to quit if forced to do it. Lou loses. Then Danny rushes in, late and apologetic and rambling about how it’s his older sister’s fault. The gang tell him it’s Friday, and he realises he’s come into his shift on the wrong day.
We shift to Tyler, dancing alone in the staff room. She’s a good dancer and the routine is solid. She’s passionate, in her element. The microwave beeps and interrupts her. She silences it and starts again. Practicing for her audition.
A new day. Danny and Darcy make a silly game of polishing cutlery together, and Charity comes in to tell Lou that ‘Colonel Mustard’ has arrived. We learn this is Harry, a generally harmless homeless man who’s been around forever, and tends to make a nuisance of himself by pinching the squeezie sauce bottles off the benches and squirting people with them. Charity very clearly hates him, and says some insensitive things about his status as a homeless person—“he’s mental”, and insinuates he could be violent—and asks Lou to come and make sure he behaves. Lou asks for a minute with Clem, who’s been waiting to the side.
Lou and Clem chat, and we learn Clem is pregnant and planning an abortion. Lou is checking on her, aware Clem’s visit to the clinic is coming up soon. Clem expresses a general unease at the unexpected nature of her situation, and updates Lou that her boyfriend’s now out of the picture, but is otherwise confident and at ease in her choice to terminate the pregnancy. Lou makes mention of having had an abortion herself sometime in the past. They talk frankly and without judgement, and we see the deep bond they share.
Charity returns to the staff room with mustard splashed all down her front, enraged. Colonel Mustard has struck. Vas rushes in to apologise for being distracted by the cute Uber Eats guy he was flirting with, and Charity angrily confronts Lou for never doing her job properly and allowing Harry to cause havoc. More ignorant comments about Harry being homeless are made; for example, Vas is stunned to learn he has a mobile phone, and says, “Who’s he gonna call? All the people he doesn’t live with?” These comments are played as humorous at the expense of the young people saying them, and not at the expense of Harry, or the idea of homelessness itself. After a particularly shitty remark at Lou, Clem silences Charity by revealing her pregnancy to the room, and how Lou was looking out for her.
Charity accepts this and everyone leaves except Vas, another good friend of Clem’s. He’s surprised Clem told everyone else about “the baby”, and is clearly uncomfortable with what Clem is going through. They get side tracked discussing Vas’s father, a homophobic Russian man who has recently returned to town and who Vas has a strained relationship with, and then Clem makes a game out of getting Vas to say the word “abortion”. He finally does, and doesn’t seem much less uneasy about it all. Clem makes a joke about vasectomies to placate him.
A new day. Danny is in the staff room, making his special hot Milo drink, an important daily treat. Lou is watching him. It’s revealed Danny’s older sister Bianca is in treatment for ovarian cancer. Lou already knows, and is again filling the role of caretaker, checking in on her young colleague. Danny’s clearly close with his sister and is worried her chemotherapy treatments are leaving her too tired and nauseous, but also tells Lou they’ve been glad to have an excuse to binge watch old TV shows together while Bianca rests. He makes some troubling remarks about death and mortality, including an observation that eventually all the celebrities we love and have formed little bonds with will die, and we’ll just be forced to live through, helpless. Lou gets the sense Danny is more preoccupied with his sister’s illness than he’s letting on, and offers to talk more seriously with him. Danny counters by asking about Lou’s boyfriend. Lou tells him he proposed ages ago, and she said “maybe”, because she didn’t want to say no, or yes, and she still isn’t sure what to do.
Another day. The staff room is empty until Charity bursts in, in the middle of a panic attack. Darcy follows her in, trying to calm her down. It turns out Charity had accidentally locked herself in the storage room out the back of the building for an hour, and being claustrophobic, didn’t cope well. It’s established the store room has a broken lock the restaurant owner, Barbara, should’ve fixed by now, and that the room is old and solid, making it dangerous as a place to get locked into and left in. Overwhelmed, Charity vomits into the mop bucket Darcy had been using to clean the floors.
Darcy and Charity talk and we learn Charity’s name is actually Jade, and “Charity” is a crappy nickname given to her during university when nude selfies she’d sent a former girlfriend made the rounds throughout the campus. Charity makes it clear she wasn’t and isn’t ashamed of the photos, only annoyed that they were distributed against her will. She’s also perfected the art of not giving a shit what people call her or think of her. Her attitude inspires Darcy, who’s nonbinary and is struggling to get some members of their family to accept the name they’ve chosen for themself. We get the sense there are others in their family who do support them, and it is clear they’re accepted and comfortable in the restaurant with their co-workers. Charity gives a surprisingly enlightened speech about how gender really is a social construct Darcy’s well within their right to live the life they want, and encourages Darcy to find a way to care less what people think of them.
We shift back to Tyler, who is practicing her dance routine in the staff room again. She’s not as confident this time, and she’s changed the song she’s dancing to. Alma walks in on her, embarrassing her. They share their lunch break and Tyler tells Alma she’s preparing for a make-or-break audition in Sydney and having trouble nailing her dance piece. Alma suggests choosing a song she actually likes dancing to, and Tyler doesn’t accept it. Tyler inquires after Alma’s lunch, which is adobo, as Alma and her family are Filipino, and Tyler makes a couple of microaggression-like comments about it.
Vas arrives for his shift and gives his lunch to Tyler—a container of borscht that his dad made, which he doesn’t want, because he doesn’t want anything from his dad at all. Rankled by her audition uncertainty, Tyler makes a poor-taste dig at Vas about Clem’s upcoming abortion, and later insinuates Vas hasn’t been a good friend to Clem lately. Alma says she recently looked up what abortion procedures are like, as she’s never known anyone who had one before. Vas tells Alma they’re “not that bad”, to which Tyler says, “You go have one, then.” Their conversation is somewhat funny, but we’re playing off the characters’ ignorance and volatility again, and not the topic of abortions itself.
Charity comes in for her lunch break and Lou realises she inadvertently scheduled everyone with the same lunch break. She goes out the front to deal with a customer. An offhand comment from Charity sparks Danny and Tyler into an epic singalong of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”, which ends when Lou comes in to try to reprimand everyone for being noisy, only to get swept up in a rare moment of joy and silliness. For the first time we see how these people together form a meaningful community, or even a reluctant family. Lou and Alma sit and talk, and Alma asks Lou about her history with the restaurant. Lou admits to aiming at a career in vet nursing but somehow never pulling it off.
A new day. Charity, Tyler and Vas are bickering with Darcy about what to do about an issue with the storage room—an animal’s crawled in there and died, and now the horrible smell is wafting through the restaurant. Darcy was supposed to check the store room every night but mistakenly thought Danny would do it this week, so it hasn’t been checked for days. They argue and flip a coin and eventually decide Vas will go deal with it instead of bothering the ranger. Darcy goes to help him. Tyler goes to take a phone call.
The staff room is empty for a minute before Vas runs in, shocked and babbling. Charity comes in to see what the racket is. The two of them finally tell her—the ‘dead animal’ is actually restaurant owner Barbara, who must have come by to sort the oil delivery, and was accidentally locked in the room, just like Charity had been. Vas has found her dead and beginning to decay. He figures out she’s likely been in there for three days. He fixates on this detail and repeats it a few times, and the fact that her corpse is the smell they’ve been putting up with until now. Her cause of death is never discussed.
The scene unfolds as each employee wanders into the conversation between Vas, Darcy and Charity about what the hell they’re supposed to do with the dead body. It spirals quickly into the absurd. Charity, never having confronted death and at a loss with Lou taking a sick day, veers into hysteria, with Darcy close behind. Vas hides under the dining table, shocked and injured, having broken his wrist while fleeing from the store room in fright. Alma interrupts the chaos with a work-related question and Charity tells her to close the restaurant and kick all the customers out. Darcy goes to help, and they fetch Clem from where she now works across the road. Clem assumes she’s been brought in to help Vas and decides to take him to emergency.
Charity and Darcy realise they should’ve called an ambulance to collect Barbara and spiral further. Danny comes in wearing the chicken suit, sweaty and parched, and makes an unfortunate joke about how he’s “literally dying in here”. Darcy spits out the truth, and Clem and Alma struggle to accept it. Clem goes to check the store room for herself and runs back into the staff room to vomit soon after. Danny says he wants to take the body out of the store room because it’s sad to think she’s been found this way, but the others nix the idea. Distressed, Danny strips out of the chicken suit and stands around in his underwear.
Tyler returns from her phone call to tell everyone Lou is not actually taking a sick day, and has been fired by Barbara for her incompetence. Everyone loses focus for a moment, shocked and outraged about what’s happened to Lou. Clem reveals she already knew Lou’d been sacked, and Vas makes an offhanded comment that leads Clem to confront him for being a shitty friend in the lead-up to and aftermath of her abortion; we realise here that Clem’s abortion has been and gone, and Lou was there to support her at all points. Vas tries to defend himself, stating he was only surprised Clem had found herself pregnant and that he never imagined she would require an abortion; he makes it pretty clear he doesn’t have an actual objection with anything that happened, only that he struggled with the swift changes his friend was going through and was trying to be supportive by not making a big deal out of anything.
Tyler belatedly catches on to the fact that Barbara has been found in the store room—everyone knows now. Tyler dissociates somewhat and stays silent. Danny decides he needs to see the body for himself and goes outside in his undies. Darcy follows with his chicken suit, for want of better clothing. When Danny comes back he’s jittery, anxious, but has accepted Barbara is dead. Charity notices Darcy hasn’t brought the chicken head back and asks where it is. We realise Danny, freaked out about Barbara’s eyes being stuck open in death, decided to put the chicken mask on her head, despite Darcy’s protests.
Everyone loses it, and Clem argues that people are going to suspect Barbara’s death wasn’t an accident if the paramedics find her in such a suspicious position. Floundering, Charity rejects Darcy’s attempt to decide what to do, and tells them, “You couldn’t even pick a fucking gender, and there’s precisely two options!” A new low. The room comes to Darcy’s defence. Darcy claps back at Charity by calling her “a dumb slut who sends naked pictures of herself to anyone with a phone”.
Alma, quiet for most of all of this, explodes. She calls everyone out for being selfish, and self-absorbed, and focusing too much on their bickering and their own problems to actually deal with the horrific reality of discovering their boss has accidentally perished on the premises. Alma says she’s glad Lou has been sacked, believing her to be bad at her job. Chastised, the gang take a beat to sit in their new world order together. Danny goes to call the ambulance and the chaos ends.
Fast forward a month. Lou is asleep at her desk, and Clem arrives early for her shift to wake her. Barbara’s brother Jeremy has inherited the restaurant, unwillingly, and is due to make his first visit there that day, which everyone’s dreading. Darcy arrives, deeply nervous about the newcomer. Danny however seems eerily upbeat and fascinated to meet him. Lou expresses concern over Danny’s overall wellbeing, and it’s revealed Bianca’s cancer treatment hasn’t been effective and she now requires an operation.
After Jeremy has visited, Danny obsesses at length about his fancy suit, wicked car and all other kinds of things. Irritated, Tyler yells at Danny to piss off to the city if he’s so interested in that way of life, and we learn Tyler bombed her recent audition and has had to keep her job at the restaurant.
Charity keeps entering and exiting the room with gifts and supplies for Colonel Mustard, who’s out the front again. We learn Charity’s changed her tune about Harry since Barbara’s sudden death, and she now fears he might meet a similar fate, with nobody to care for him or notice when he’s gone. Darcy helps Charity realise she’s probably overdoing it.
Charity encourages Darcy to stand up to Jeremy, who has been misgendering Darcy whenever he visits. His actions appear more ignorant than malicious. Darcy tells Charity they’re not sure how he’ll react if they start talking about pronouns and such, so it’s their choice to let sleeping dogs lie, and that in any case, he doesn’t get to decide who they are. Darcy says they’ve learned how to not care what people think, and Charity’s proud of them.
Clem drags Vas into the staff room to help him sober up—he’s been making a habit of showing up to his shifts stoned, courtesy of his new drug dealer boyfriend. She’s trying to cover for him so he can keep his job. Vas makes a stupid comment about how he won’t get fired, because Darcy didn’t even get fired and it’s their fault Barbara’s dead. Clem reprimands him and Darcy indicates they’ve been going to therapy to help them deal with the aftermath of Barbara’s death; they know they’re not to blame for what happened.
On another day, Lou confronts Alma about her opinions on how Lou does her job, and Alma says if she herself were manager she would’ve fired Charity and Tyler a long time ago. She also says she would’ve fixed the lock on the storeroom, and Lou admits that’s probably true.
Colonel Mustard returns, at a time when Jeremy is also visiting. Lou panics about the possibility of the new owner ending up covered in mustard and everyone goes to deal with him, except Danny, who takes a moment to himself to make his special Milo drink, like he does every day. Except he realises the Milo tin is empty, and he can’t. It’s the final straw. Distraught, he throws the tin at the wall and begins to break down. Tyler witnesses it but isn’t sure how to help, and Clem comes in, having overheard the noise, and hugs Danny. Tyler joins in on the hug.
Vas barges into the room, stoned, and Charity and Darcy try to control him. Darcy joins in on the group hug. Then Lou enters the room, covered in mustard. The others are in shock—this has never happened to Lou before. It could go either way. She might completely blow a gasket. She might quit, like Charity threatened to do. Alma runs into the room, pissed at being left alone out the front for the hundredth time, and laughs at Lou’s state. The others can’t help it—they join in. So does Lou. Everyone laughs together at the absurdity of their situation, and Danny runs to get some chips from the kitchen to dip in the sauce on Lou’s clothes. They eat and talk together, and the show ends.
If you made it reading this far, you’re a bloody legend. Thank you.