RICHARD Bean, creator of One Man Two Guv’nors, started his playwriting career with Toast, an imagined night shift at a Hull bread factory where he worked as a teenager.
And a revival of the London production is currently touring the UK, at Bath Theatre Royal until 12th March. Bean was only 18 when he joined the bakery team, and he says his experiences there left an indelible mark on his impressionable psyche.
It would be easy to dismiss Toast as a sort of Dinner Ladies with balls – which are a vital part of the action in the filthy canteen in which the play is set. Although it was 20 years after he left this year-long bakery stint, Toast is clearly an immature play, originally in three acts.
By the interval, most members of the audience were discussing in puzzled tones what it was they were watching. A few in Bath gave up, probably because of the language.
It certainly is a strange piece of theatre, vividly capturing the relationships built up by a group of men fighting the tedium, and sometimes danger, of factory work in a place where “management” doesn’t give a toss, especially at weekends, and the only real motivator is money.
Apart from making you wonder if you could EVER eat mass-produced bread again, Toast is a play of long scene setting immersed in Hull dialect and dialogue, performed by a cast led by Matthew Kelly, as the beloved but peculiar Nellie, and Simon Greenall as the comical Cecil, both reprising their roles from the London production.
There are long moments of inaction and silence, but they don’t drag. The play introduces the audience to what must be an alien world for most. It ends as a paean to male bonding as moments of gentle kindness and insightful caring creep through the profanities and bollock-grabbing.
Could I recommend it? If you are a big fan of Richard Bean’s later work, it has interest value. If you are a fan of Matthew Kelly, this is another multi-faceted and memorable performance.