Nigel Slater's Toast comes to The Lowry

PUBLISHED: 00:00 06 November 2019

Nigel Slater (c) Piers Foley

Nigel Slater (c) Piers Foley

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The stage adaptation of cookery writer Nigel Slater's award-winning book revels in the joy of cooking, with delicious smells and tastes, while highlighting the tragedy of a lonely boy

(L-R) Giles Cooper, Blair Plant, Katy Federman (c) Piers Foley(L-R) Giles Cooper, Blair Plant, Katy Federman (c) Piers Foley

It is rare for a theatre show to come with an allergy warning. Strobe lighting cautions certainly, but advance notice of potential contact with nuts, soya, gluten, dairy and eggs is fairly unexpected. Then again, this play is nothing short of unique.

If there's one show to make the mouth water in Salford this winter, it's Nigel Slater's Toast, at The Lowry. The food writer's delicious and touching memoir of growing up in 1960s suburban England is a bitter-sweet pleasure stuffed with Angel Delight, tinned peach flan, jelly, and death.

'I said I wasn't going to cry, but it gets me every time, it's a very emotional story for me,' Nigel says about seeing the play for the first time. Toast vividly recreates life in the 60s with its ups and downs of Nigel's childhood, from the relationship with his parents, waging war over cakes through to the playground politics of sweets and the evocative display of how he dealt with grief.

Seeing Nigel's character in the play makes you appreciate the amount of growth he went through following his mother's death. 'I was a very shy, fragile and sheltered child,' he recalls. 'When my mother died, it changed me forever. Going from being mothered 24/7 to being alone at such a young age helped me grow thicker skin.'

Nigel goes on tour with the cast and crew to watch the show in different settings, and he normally likes to watch the first couple of shows in each new theatre. 'Even though the story and the acting is the same, each theatre presents something new and I love to see how the audience reacts to it.

'I still get emotional, obviously it was a long time ago when it all happened, but there are certain scenes and lines that get to me,' he says. His relationship with his mother was incredibly close, and losing her almost unbearable. 'I wish she was here to see this play and see me now. I wish she could see how everything worked out.'

Nigel's love for food is deeply rooted in his childhood. 'Food is more than just something to sustain us and to eat,' he insists. 'It's a great comfort and that is one of the main themes of the play. It shows food in different ways. You will get to see how I would secretly cook with my mother because my dad didn't want me to cook, but I loved that special time with mum - and how my stepmother came into my life by seducing my father with home cooked food.'

Toast has been a book, a radio adaptation, a TV film and now a play. It was adapted by director Henry Filloux-Bennett (whose name makes him sound like a delectable French patisserie) and it premiered at The Lowry in 2018. After a run on the West End and touring across the country, it's coming back to where it all began.

'I am thrilled that it's back in Salford, the real joy for me is that the play has grown. Yes, the lines are the same, but the scenes feel bigger and more evocative,' he says. 'Now, having gone through a year of seasoning, different locations and slight cast changes, the play is back where it kicked off and it will be such a full-circle moment for me to see it back in Salford!'

Warning: you will find this play addictive.

11-16 November, thelowry.com

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