Toats head

Toast

Malvern Festival Theatre

***

IN THE same vein as Victoria Wood's Dinnerladies, Toast is a gentle drama full of gritty personalities and warm humour.

This is writer Richard Bean's first professionally produced play and as he once worked in a bread factory for a year, it's obviously come from somewhere close to his heart.

The characters - a group of men on a nightshift (plus an eMatthew Kelyccentric temp) - have plenty of depth, which is essential as the plot is more about their relationships and motivations than any dramatic event.

The essence of a doomed factory and its workers are all there - the filthy banter, card games, teasing and smoking.

In fact, there's probably a little more smoking and swearing than necessary and I overheard a small group of people complaining for a refund at the interval due to repetitive use of the C word.

But to be fair to Bean, this play is supposed to be set in a factory shop floor in Hull in the 1970s.

Following on from various recent roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), Matthew Kelly plays rundown, dithering Nellie, who has been at the factory for more than 40 years.

Careworn Nellie, played by Matthew Kelly, battered into submission by a lifetime of grafting long hours mixing bread in the factory

He gives an understated performance witoh emphasis on the small details, like his facial expressions and smoker's cough.

There's a strong cast around him including Simon Greenall, better known as Alan Partridge's only friend Michael in the I'm Alan Partridge TV shows, as well as being less well known for creating the voice of meerkat Aleksandr Orlov in the Compare The Market adverts.

Greenall is the happy go lucky ageing sidekick, who has always got a prank up his sleeve and would be lost without his job at the bakery. He gives a slick performance and comes across as the most likeable of the motley crew.

The rest of the shift is made up of conscientious team leader Blakey, the ambitious Colin, the cheeky young Dezzie, angry and demotivated Peter and the strange student Lance, who adds an unexpected twist to the evening.

This play is a throwback to the working class dramas of the 1960s where the conversation takes precedence over the action taking place off stage. It's a gently humorous slow burner that offers sentiment and a slice of life in a bread-making factory. Directed by Eleanor Rhode, Toast runs to Saturday, 27-02-16

Alison Brinkworth

22-02-16 

Toast continues on tour returning to the Midland 4-9 April at Nottingham Theatre Royal prior to a month's run off-Broadway at 59E59 in New York. TOAST

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