Review: Toast - Lawrence Batley Theatre

Toast is based on Nigel Slater's memoir of the same name.
Toast is based on Nigel Slater's memoir of the same name.
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When Nigel Slater sat down to write his memoir, Toast, about his troubled childhood and adolescence, he could scarcely have imagined it would take on such a life of its own.

In 2010, it was turned into an acclaimed BBC drama of the same name, and last year it was adapted for the stage by Henry Filloux-Bennett, recently appointed artistic director at Huddersfield's Lawrence Batley Theatre, where it has just begun a new nationwide tour.

Henry Filloux-Bennett and Nigel Slater at Huddersfield's Lawrence Batley Theatre.

Henry Filloux-Bennett and Nigel Slater at Huddersfield's Lawrence Batley Theatre.

He has done a brilliant job. I was fortunate enough to see Toast when it was on down in London earlier this summer and impressive as that was, I’d say this is even better.

Filloux-Bennett’s stage adaptation is irresistibly evocative and taps into our collective memories of a time, the 1960s, when Spaghetti Bolognese was something new and exotic and tinned food (rather than microwaves) was viewed as the path to culinary ruin.

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The star of the show is Giles Cooper (Nigel) who captures the spirit of the character without trying to do an impersonation, and whose warm narration anchors the whole play.

There is pathos and poignancy, but there are also moments of levity and humour - the musical numbers, including one brilliantly choreographed foodie battle set to the Talking Heads song Psycho Killer, are a joy to behold.

Cooper is admirably supported by the small cast who each play their part (and sometimes more than one) with aplomb.

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This is a play about food memories and smells - which occasionally waft down from the stage - with sweet treats dished out to members of the audience. It is also a play about love and what can happen when that is cruelly taken from us.

What makes Toast so brilliant is that although it’s based on Slater’s story (he sometimes makes an appearance in the audience as he did this week in Huddersfield), its ordinariness means we can all empathise with it in one way or another. It takes us on a nostalgic trip down memory lane without ever becoming saccharine or sentimental.

Sometimes a play comes along that is just so, and this is one of them. If you go and watch it you’re in for a treat - and a delicious one at that.

5 STARS

To Aug 24. Also York Theatre Royal, Nov 19-23