Matthew Kelly and cast impress in Bean's Toast
The first London revival of Richard Bean's debut play - which marked the final outing for the Telegraph's retiring critic Charles Spencer - is "beautifully played"
...All of Bean's characters are sharply and affectionately observed, and beautifully played in Eleanor Rhode's production... Will Barton's intense shop steward and Matt Sutton's fiery, impatient Peter are more directly engaged with the background of strikes... Matthew Kelly's wonderful, docile, rubbery-featured portrait of a sad old lifer...
...Matthew Kelly, as the ageing bread-mixer, is left alone on stage silently munching a cheese sandwich, and his creased, crumpled features convey his sad dependence on a life of mechanised toil... all the characters are vividly particularised in Rhode's production... Steve Nicholson... shows the simmering rage of a man who has swapped one prison for another; Simon Greenall is very funny as the tinman who compensates for his domestic sexual deprivation by grabbing the testicles of his colleagues; and John Wark is suitably unnerving as the strange newcomer who seeks an identity through work...
...this excellent and highly welcome revival, directed by Eleanor Rhode and grittily designed by James Turner, abundantly testifies... All the characters come vividly to life... superb actor Matthew Kelly is mesmerising as old Nellie... He movingly captures the sheer weariness and almost childlike simplicity of the man... You can't take your eyes off him... Steve Nicolson captures the innate decency of the factory charge-hand, Simon Greenall is delightful as Cecil... John Wark proves deeply disconcerting... the play's mixture of robust humour and sudden moments of tense drama proves constantly compelling.
... a small and vivid piece, packed with Bean's now familiar gallows humour... Performed with appealing simplicity, Toast feels like an ode to ordinariness... Eleanor Rhode's production captures both the grinding tediousness of shift work and the camaraderie that makes it bearable, while Max Pappenheim's memorable sound design ensures that the unseen, temperamental oven is a substantial character in its own right.
... Bean's play is grounded by lots of detail about the baker's art, lending it real authenticity... it is the fully inhabited characters who bring the play to life, and Eleanor Rhode's beautifully cast and acted production gives each a completely rounded existence... the play keeps many other balls in the air simultaneously and never drops them as it pulses with life's rhythms... a beautifully poignant portrait of working life... deserves its high status... A fine revival.