by Richard Bean
The Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, London
To 21September 2014
Tues – Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3pm
Runs 2 hr 15 mins One interval
TICKETS: 0207 870 6876
Review: William Russell, 28 August 2014
Bean on toast; and well served.
This is a first rate revival of Richard Bean’s play first seen at the Royal Court in 1999. Since then he has gone to great success with One Man, Two Guv’nors and his Great Britain about the phone hacking scandal is due to open in the West End shortly after a run at the National Theatre.
Toast is set in a Hull bread factory on a Sunday night. Nobody wants to be there. There is a massive order to be fulfilled. The plant is under threat of closure as there is a new plant in Bradford waiting to take the work over. The jobs are very precious.
Bean has conjured up a world of men – the card playing, the jostling for superiority, the physical assaults in fun, the jockey for power – to perfection and director Eleanor Rhode has secured fine performances from her cast with Matthew Kelly outstanding as Nellie, the simpleton baker whom they all look on with affection and endlessly tease. Nellie is also, having worked all his life in the factory, their future, a dough encrusted hunk of humanity who would be lost without his job.
Rhode might have a word, however, with one or two players whose regional accents are so thick they are at times impenetrable, and whose projection, especially in an intimate space like this, leaves a lot to be desired.
It is the work place of the past – a world of coin operated telephones and filthy rest rooms for the workers – but what Bean has to say about the horrors of such jobs, and the need to work is as relevant now as when he wrote the piece. The first act does take time to get going – but the arrival of a student doing a temporary job – John Wark good as a slightly sinister presence – stirs things up enough in time for the interval to make one want to know what will happen. The accident when the bread oven gets clogged with tins which must be resolved without the management finding out provides tension aplenty in the second half.
The cast is admirable, but it is Kelly who holds the attention. He really is magnificent.
Blakey: Steve Nicholson
Colin: Will Barton
Peter: Matt Sutton
Cecil: Simon Greenall
Nellie: Matthew Kelly
Dezzie: Finlay Robertson
Lance: John Wark
Director: Eleanor Rhode
Set Designer: James Turner
Lighting Designer: Mike Robertson
Sound Designer: Max Pappenheim
Costume Designer: Holly Rose Henshaw