BWW Review: TOAST, Theatre Royal Brighton
Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger is a best-selling memoir novel from the renowned Observer food columnist, Nigel Slater. It was adapted into a film in 2010 and has now been reworked for the stage.
Toast premiered at The Lowry in Manchester in 2018. The show is currently running at the Theatre Royal in Brighton as part of a UK tour.
Audience members enter the auditorium to the delicious scent of slightly burnt toast. They are taken on a food-filled journey through Slater's (Giles Cooper) childhood, with many vivid smells, tastes and descriptions in tow to aid the storytelling.
Cooper embodies the nine-year-old Nigel we meet at the top of the show, full of enthusiasm for jam tarts and showing off his family home. He authentically grows into a young man throughout the show's events.
Katy Federman is sweetly charming as Nigel's mum, always wanting to do her best for her son. Blair Plant gives a fine performance as the father of the unit, particularly in a highly comical scene where he attempts to cook Spaghetti Bolognese for his family for the first time.
Samantha Hopkins is suitably suave as Joan and also juggles other lively characters alongside Stefan Edwards from gardeners, to waiters, to shopkeepers, to ballet dancers.
A lovely feature of the show is that some of the food discussed and prepared on stage is given out, much to the audience's delight. As novel as the experience of being surrounded by a room of people guzzling sweets in a theatre is, by the time the sweets reach the back of the stalls, the narrative on stage has very much moved on to more serious subject matter. The moment had slightly less impact when punctuated by crinkly wrappers.
Choreography from director Jonnie Riordan makes use of rolling kitchen units to add dimensions to musical interludes between scenes.
Henry Filloux-Bennet's book successfully weaves the many memories and anecdotes from Slater's book into a story you get invested in as an audience member.
Libby Watson's designs evoke the 1960s era, and Zoe Spurr's lighting design bathes the nostalgic tale in warm light. As Food Director, James Thompson cleverly incorporates culinary delights into the show without unnecessary wastage, with clever Blue Peter-style pre-made props to keep the audience engaged and amused.
Toast has a wonderful balance of humour and heartstring-tugging drama, which would be expected in a domestic tale. The innovative blend of food and family makes for a delicious outing.
Nigel Slater's Toast at Theatre Royal Brighton until 2 November then continues on tour
Photography credit: Piers Foley