After a much-lauded run at the Traverse Theatre as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last summer, Henry Filloux-Bennett’s adaptation of Nigel Slater’s autobiography, Toast, comes to The Other Palace in Victoria. Like the book, it is a story that irrefutably imbues and binds foods with emotion and meaning, highlighting the power of the subliminal messages that you unknowingly consume (literally) throughout your childhood, and last a lifetime. A string of these For Nigel, it is the burnt toast slathered in butter that tastes of unconditional maternal love and the constancy of mundane home life in his early childhood. It is the sharp lemon meringue pie that tastes of the sickly superficial family life that became Nigel’s after his dad was remarried. It is the eggs that taste of betrayal and distress for not fulfilling his father’s expectations; and the walnut whip which tastes of confusion, guilt and the tentative stirrings of adolescent desire.
The audience are privy to some of these flavours, not least through Nigel’s descriptive, often humorous narration and the cast’s comic musical performances, but also through food itself. Walnut whip in hand, the audience learn how Nigel’s dad prefers to devour the sweet centre, chocolate casing and nut topping – and then try it out themselves. At another point, retro bags of 60s sweets are passed from row to row and the theatre fills with the soft rustle of wrappers and mouths, with the tang of a sour apple or the rich toffee flavour of an eclair. These multi-sensory moments are seamlessly woven into the performance and do total justice to director, Jonnie Riordan’s vision for the production. Spectators can tap into Nigel’s child self with more ease– his preoccupations, thoughts and feelings are tasted with crystal clear clarity. This theatrical bridge into the story is rarely used but, in this instance, is highly effective, making Toast this spring’s must-see show.
And the immersive experience doesn’t have to end there. The venue’s in-house bar, The Other Gin Palace, and restaurant, The Other Naughty Piglet, are joining in on the fun. In fact Head Chef, Joe Sharratt, is a long-time fan of Slater’s recipes and jumped at the chance to recreate one of the puddings originally referenced in his autobiography and now the play: rice pudding. Better known for stodginess than subtlety, this dish, like Nigel’s mum’s own, is ‘surprisingly good’. Evocative of a crème caramel or brûlée, the chilled pudding is served with a sour rhubarb ice cream and will join the black cardamom panna cotta, pistachio ice cream and chocolate mousse on the dessert menu for the duration of the play’s run at the theatre. The mains are equally superb – British classics with an Asian twist. Their BBQ pork belly is served with a smokey, rich sauce made from an exquisite blend of Korean spices and the XO linguine with a cured egg yolk is a proper, homemade pasta dish. During the interval treat yourself to a Rhubarb & Custard Martini or Lemon & Raspberry Meringue cocktail, if you want to stick firmly within the flavours of Slater’s story, or try one of the 50 other gin brands on offer.
Nigel Slater’s Toast will run from Thursday 11 April to 3 August. Performances are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at 7.30pm and Thursday and Saturday at 3pm and 7.30pm. Running time is 2 hours and 10 minutes, including delicious sweet treats during the show and an interval to top up your glasses.
The Other Palace was acquired by Lloyd Webber theatres in 2016 and now hosts the best of the capital’s new theatre. The play will be shown in the 300-seat Main Theatre, in walking distance of both Victoria and St James’s Park tube stations.
Book online and choose between 4 differently-priced ticket bands.