Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Review: Toast at the Park Theatre

Park Theatre
Reviewed on Friday 29th August 2014

As Richard Bean continues to take theatreland by storm, Eleanor Rhode has staged the first London revival of his very first play, Toast.

Inspired by the time he spent working in a bread plant, Toast is one of Bean's few plays to feature characters based on people he knew and worked alongside personally.

Other than a factory drama the piece is character driven, centring around the men's unique relationships. I do love a character driven piece, and here Bean provides characters with brains of all shapes and sizes. Some are not to be messed with, while others clearly have a screw loose.

What I love most about Bean is his unpredictability; within the last two months I've had the pleasure of seeing One Man Two Guvnors (which is touring the UK) and Great Britain (which is about to transfer to the West End), as well as Toast. All three plays couldn't be more different, with Toast being the most gentle of the three. Its rhythm is calmer.

I've never seen Matthew Kelly in such a quiet role. Often he marches on stage and makes quite an impression, but here he proves he can also portray the innocent fool. His comic timing is spot on and his presence is naturally likeable. The entire all-male cast have strong chemistry, it is the large group scenes which I found the funniest.

I was particularly impressed by James Turner's design. The Park Theatre can provide challenges for more intimate shows such as Toast as the space is so tall. However, the low hanging lighting bring intimacy to proceedings.

At moments I thought Toast was going somewhere but ultimately it doesn't. On occasion the comedy is a little forced, perhaps time is needed for this to settle. It plods along nicely, I politely chuckled throughout while others found it noticeably funnier.

Toast certainly isn't my favourite of Bean's plays, but it certainly is fascinating to see his first published play back on the London stage. Richard Bean is an extremely clever man and this production provides the chance for audiences to see where it all began...

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Toast runs at the Park Theatre until Sunday 21st September 2014.
Please visit www.parktheatre.co.uk for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Ben Broomfield

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