The north had a serious culture clash with the south at Worthing’s Connaught Theatre last night, when a gritty and all too real production of the play Toast opened to a packed house.
The jokes were crude and the language was colourful, but it was Richard Bean’s intention to shock when he wrote his debut play in 1999.
Toast tells the tale of seven men in a bread factory in 1970s Hull, who through numerous events are forced to risk their lives to save their jobs, a reflection of the moral reality members of the working class were faced with daily.
The characters are expertly unique, and Matthew Kelly shone as Nellie, the baking veteran who would ‘drop dead’ before he would leave.
He played the role so simply, and although most of his lines consisted of one word, they were delivered so well the audience started to bond with his surprisingly emotional character.
The rest of the cast bounced off each other effortlessly, as Peter (Matt Sutton), the angry youth of the piece, cane to blows with teacher’s pet Colin (Will Barton), while student Lance (John Wark) remained the mystery factor throughout, rolling his lines in a snide and generally eerie manner.
Credit must also be given to Cecil (Simon Greenall), the lovable war veteran who contrasted nicely with Blakey (Steve Nicholson), the brutal boss with a kind heart.
Newcomer Kieran Knowles also impressed as Dezzie, being the main butt of the jokes, and his chemistry with Greenall showed a fascinating relationship between mentor and apprentice.
Director Elanor Rhode showed she has a great knowledge for the ins and outs of factory life, managing to keep all seven characters interesting throughout on a relatively small stage.
The costumes all had their own touch that showed off each character, and while the set was simple, it deliberately portrayed a grubby tearoom stereotypically associated with factory workers.
The lighting seemed a little basic at times, although this was to be expected with a piece of realism, and the sound was the most impressive feature, with the constant humming of the roaring ovens keeping the audience held in suspense while highlighting the urban grime of the factory.
Overall, Toast is a politically strong piece with a lot of dark laughs, but it has a very talented cast and crew that keep you hooked from start to finish. A must see for anyone looking for a challenging piece of theatre.
• Toast is at Worthing’s Connaught Theatre until Saturday. For more information or to book tickets, log on to www.worthingtheatres.co.uk or call the box office on 01903 206206.
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