Toast

Richard Bean
Live Theatre, Newcastle
(2004)

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Toast was Richard Bean's second play (Royal Court, 1999), but he has rewritten it for its production in Newcastle, changing the local references (it was orginally set in his home town of Hull) but retaining the date. Following the advice always given to new writers - to write about what you know - he based it on his experiences when, in 1974, before becoming a student, he worked in a bakery producing Wonderloaf. It is best described as a light comedy with touches of seriousness.

The workers in the bakery are an odd assortment: there's the ex-con foreman Blakey (Trevor Fox) who's a bit of a hard man; shop steward Colin (Chris Connel) who is really out for himself; Walter (Michael Gunn), the slow-witted, wife-dominated big man; Cecil (Gez Casey) who has really nothing in his life but his work; Peter (John McCraw) whose aim in life is to enjoy himself; the not-terribly-bright but good-hearted Dezzie (David Nellist) and the mentally ill "student", Lance (John Lloyd Fillingham).

They are fairly standard, even stock characters, but a combination of writer and actors gives them individual personalities, which rescues them from being mere stereotypes. The action of the play is primarily the interplay between them. Although a workplace crisis in the second half does add some dramatic tension, this is mainly a play of character.

It's lightweight, it's true, but enjoyable nonetheless, and several dozens of miles ahead of the play which, for me, began the week, Anyone for Breakfast?

Reviewer: Peter Lathan