REVIEW: Toast (part of Week 53) at The Lowry
Upstaged Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The theme for The Lowry’s Week 53 Festival is ‘Coming of Age’ and Toast, the award-winning food memoir by Nigel Slater, fits the bill perfectly. This moving autobiography, exploring the formative years of one of the nation’s favourite foodies, has been adapted for the stage by Henry Filloux-Bennett. Told through the eyes of a young Nigel, the playfulness of the writing translates flawlessly to stage in this striking, incredibly moving and always relatable production.
This production is beautifully sentimental and laced with nostalgia – every detail within the writing is brought out through the clever design and staging. An assortment of kitchen chairs make up the seating for the audience – jam tarts are delicately placed on each chair giving the audience an inviting welcome. Libby Watson’s set is beautifully childlike and twee as if it has been peeled from a warm and fuzzy memory. Kitchen cupboards open, shut and slide to create fluid scene changes – there really is some delicious choreography here.
All of the cast are astounding: Sam Newton (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time) is instantly likeable as Nigel and plays the part with just the right amount of precociousness. Addressing the audience directly and frequently breaking the fourth wall, Newton is utterly charming and comical. The other members of the cast play a number of characters each – Lizzie Muncey shows great emotion as Nigel’s mum at the start of the play before swiftly taking on the playful role of Nigel’s school pal and his harsh but hilarious school teacher. Marie Lawrence really shines as Aunty Fanny, with her squelchy jelly secrets, and Nigel’s detestable step-mother Joan. Stephen Ventura puts in an excellent performance as Nigel’s dad and Andy Brady plays a range of roles demonstrating his versatility as a performer.
Director Jonnie Riordan has worked with Food Director James Thompson to incorporate smell and taste into the performance and this is a complete multi-sensory triumph. There are some sweet treats for the members of the audience – no spoilers here – but there is a wonderful Walnut Whip moment.
Toast will be sure to evoke foodie memories in all of us – whether that is sherry trifle, old-fashioned corner shop sweets or Angel Delight. Food has the ability to transport us to a memory or safe place. Toast is also much more than this – it’s about love, loss, family and growing up. A beautiful production that will warm your cockles like a freshly baked jam tart.
Toast runs at The Lowry until 2 June 2018.