Nottingham Theatre Royal
It's Sunday night at a bread baking plant in Hull and the seven workers are just starting their shift. But tonight is going to be just a little different when a tin tray spanner is thrown, quite literally, into the works. Set in the staff room of the plant, but with several scenes taking place off stage with sound effects to create the essence of the plant's other work areas. We discover the backgrounds of the seven men and how they see work and the psychological side of the night shift workers and their interaction with each other.
Bean, who also wrote "One Man Two Guvnors", but is nothing like that play, bases this play and characters on his real life experiences of working in a bread making plant. All of the characters are based on the people who he worked with, although the character's names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Matthew Kelly is mesmerising as old Nellie, a broken-down employee of the factory, battered into submission by over forty-five years of hard graft, and a wife who only allows him one packet of cigarettes a week.There's a lovely begrudging scene where the "student worker" asks Nellie for a cigarette, but he may as well have asked for a kidney! There are comparisons to be made with Nellie to Matthew's Olivier award winning role as Lennie in "Of Mice And Men" a few years back and the child-like character is one you instantly warm to and want to protect. There are several parts of the play where he just sits in silence, providing poignancy to the role
Simon Greenall, who you may recognise as Michael the Geordie from Alan Partridge's show, and is also the voice of the meerkats on TV, is delightful as Cecil. Always looking at the silver lining of the cloud with a very tactile attitude.
John Wark proves deeply unnerving as a mature student taken on for the shift who isn’t quite what he seems.
Steve Nicolson is Blakey. A wonderful colourful character,and like the rest of the men, he has some wonderfully colourful lines to deliver as well.
Kieran Knowles as Dezzie, one of the younger workers who has just discovered hot water in his new home and he and "Mrs Badger" are reaping the benefits of this aphrodisiac, but the plant's grinding to a halt puts a halt to his planned trip home in his half hour, non smoke break. some brilliant one liners that you need to look out for from Dezzie.
Peter, played by Matt Sutton is a family man with young kids who is doing his best to keep the money rolling in to the family coffers and is reliant on the job to do this, so when the possibility of the plant closing rears it's head, you can sense his concern.
Will Barton completes the work force as Colin, Will is no stranger to Nottingham having performed several times in the area in the past.
Directed by Eleanor Rhode and produced by Sarah Loader, the play is wonderfully touching as well as creating many laughs along the way.
There's a lot of choice language from the start but that's a reflection of any male based working environment. The language and comedy is typically Northern and refreshingly blunt and honest. This may have been a little too blunt and honest for some as they decided to vote with their feet. For the majority who like a bit of rawness in their theatre, this was a wonderful treat from a talented cast working with a script riddled with humour and feeling.
I've been restraining myself from introducing puns into the review but I really would urge you to shell out some dough to see this play as the crew rise to the occasion. It may offend the crusty ones without a sense of humour, but grab yourself a slice of comic brilliance which will have you rolling about and bap home by ten. Go on use your loaf, cobber!
"Toast" is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 9 April 2016 when it transfers to New York for a five week run.