On a rainy Friday evening in Manchester, the Quays Theatre of the Lowry is warm, bright and thick with the smell of toast!
Toast is an autobiographical play based on the film and book of the same name by Nigel Slater. Slater is a world-renowned, self-made chef and author for Observer Magazine.
While the play is not a musical, it is still highlighted with key tracks from Slater’s life. His mother’s favourite song, La Mer, takes pride of place in one of the most memorable yet haunting scenes of the play. The smoothness of Blue Velvet was enough to get stuck in your head all evening, and the use of Psycho Killer to portray the food battle between Slater and his step-mother, ‘Auntie Joanie’, is comical but important.
The set is singular and fitting – the classic 60s kitchen complete with an AGA and a bright blue fridge. Not only does this set work with the themes of the play, but it also emphasises the significance of the kitchen – the heart of the home where everything happens, conversations are overheard, amazing meals are consumed, and life decisions are made.
Slater’s sexuality has always been something of interest to the press, but he cleverly tells his story by making the audience realise that that isn’t the thing that matters – the way his father and his generation made him feel like he couldn’t be himself is what matters more.
Giles Cooper does a stellar job of portraying Slater at ages 9, 13 and 17. His transition from child-like wonder to adolescent curiosity is seamless, all the while portraying a fascination for food, which gets stronger in every scene. The rest of the cast does an amazing job of playing multiple characters and acing several accents. Blair Plant strutting across the stage as a ring girl is enough to make anyone laugh.
Make sure to grab a slice of the action and see Toast while you can. Even if you just go for the boyish smile in the last second as our hero heads toward the green lights of the Savoy Hotel…
Toast continues its UK tour until early December.