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Nigel Slater’s Toast review at the Lowry, Salford – ‘warmth, wit and walnut whips’

Lizzie Muncey and Sam Newton in Toast at the Lowry, Salford
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Nigel Slater’s autobiographical novel Toast is steeped in the aromas of home baking and burnt toast, and his genial writing style is as warm and indulgent as the comfort food he’s best known for.

Henry Filloux-Bennett’s adaptation brings this richly to the stage in a production glowing with nostalgia under Jonnie Riordan’s direction.

Slater’s book charts a path through his formative years and, while he may possibly have taken artistic license with some of the events portrayed, it offers a telling exploration of the nature and nurture that built his character. Despite heavy cutting, this adaptation maintains both the infectious charm and disarming frankness of its source material.

Libby Watson’s set is filled with vivid colour and period detail, and the swirling stage movement gives the production a dreamlike quality. The storytelling is lifted from the page and the action and narrative sometimes collide head on to great comic effect.

Sam Newton plays the sharp-eyed, sharp-tongued Nigel with delicious precision. The supporting cast multi-role seamlessly, surrounding him with the people who shaped his early years. The sweetness of the dessert-filled story is balanced with moments of aching sadness and longing, and only in a few places does the piece feel the need of more drive.

There are few plays that carry allergen warnings, but this one does as numerous sweet treats are distributed to the audience as it goes along. This is only one of many quirky touches in a staging that has a closely guarded surprise at its ending.

 

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Verdict
Nigel Slater’s coming-of-age story is told with warmth, wit and walnut whips
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