Theatre to serve Toast with plenty of ham
Audience to be given food during stage version of Nigel Slater’s memoir
Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger, the bestselling food memoir by Observer writer Nigel Slater, is to be brought to the stage. Audiences will be treated to more than just the author’s memories, as the show’s director plans to offer samples of the dishes and tastes that are so central to the story.
A series of “communal eating interventions”, involving a slice of bread-and-butter pudding, or a jam tart, are to be staged, while the potent kitchen smells of boiled ham and cabbage are to be wafted across the stalls at the Lowry theatre, Salford next year.
The play, adapted by Henry Filloux-Bennett, is part of Week 53, the May arts festival at the venue, which will have the theme of “coming of age” to mark the theatre’s 18th year.
This weekend Slater said he was “overjoyed” about the production. “The idea of that little book being a radio adaptation, a film and now a stage production is beyond thrilling,” he said. “I have been to the first read-through at the theatre and felt immediately that they are doing a fantastic job – which is always a worry when it is your story.”
Slater’s business partner James Thompson was working with the production team as food consultant, he added. “I love the script so far and the fact that Henry and the team have allowed me to be so involved. I love the idea of some real food being involved too, though I’m sure the logistics won’t be easy,” added Slater.
The show’s director, Jonnie Riordon, said he recognised much of Slater’s childhood experience: “That desire to work out who you were going to be and to get out there and do it. It’s such a brilliant coming of age story.”
Riordon plans to bring food out to the audience, but admitted it would require “mathematical accuracy”. “This is going to be a play that audiences can really taste,” he said.
Chapter titles in Toast are taken from the names of sweet dishes, but the book’s content is far from saccharine. As the Guardian food critic Matthew Fort once wrote, Slater’s attitude “is relentlessly unsentimental.”
Matthew Eames, producer of the Week 53 festival, said the audience was likely to be seated at tables to allow them to interact with the cast.