The Other Palace (venue)
09 April 2019 (released)
10 April 2019
The Old Masters began their training as children, and Nigel Slater’s Toast shows us the modern equivalent, where a child’s hunger, love and cookery fuel the adult’s vocation. This production, directed by Jonnie Riordan and with an elegantly nostalgic set by Libby Watson, opens with nine-year old Nigel cooking jam tarts with his Mum (played with warmth and sincerity by Lizzie Muncey).
But these are not just jam tarts: they bind the family together as deftly as Nigel rubs in the butter and flour. Some clever Blue Peter-style shortcuts later, and in seconds the tarts go from raw ingredients to molten treats, presaging the family’s pain to come.
Nigel is played by Giles Cooper in a superb performance which gradually layers the real Nigel’s distinctive expressions and cooking style into the adolescent character, until the child becomes the man.
Marie Lawrence deserves special mention for her portrayal of Nigel’s stepmother ‘Aunt’ Joan, all Pledge and puffing fags, who battles her stepson for Mr Slater’s heart, via his stomach. This is no mean feat at a time when spaghetti is exotic, vegetables should be boiled for 20-25 minutes and endive is dismissed by Mr Slater (Stephen Ventura) as ‘cookery book nonsense’.
The details make this an evocative production, the experience heightened by the distribution at key points of sweet treats to the audience, when the theatre blazes with the crackle of wrappers and excitement. Walnut whips will never be eaten the same way again…
Go, ingest and enjoy – and sit at the end of a row to get the leftovers!
At the Other Palace, London until Saturday 3 August.