The­atre to serve Toast with plenty of ham

Au­di­ence to be given food dur­ing stage ver­sion of Nigel Slater’s mem­oir

The Observer - - NEWS - By Vanessa Thorpe Arts and Me­dia Correspondent

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.

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