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Toast would bring pride to any mum.

Byline: By Sam Wonfor

Sam Wonfor reviews Toast, Live Theatre's new production, which is playing the Newcastle Quayside venue until December 11. Box office: (0191) 232-1232.

I did a bit of a shift at the Greggs bakery in Gosforth a couple of weeks ago.

And although I only had about 15 minutes in the canteen during my fun and stottie-filled visit, I heard at least a mixing bowl's-worth of anecdotes and one-liners worthy of a chuckle.

So it was fitting that last night I got a two-hour helping of break-time banter and factory drama in the form of Richard Bean's Toast.

Set entirely in the "recreational space" of a bread plant in the mid-1970s, and during a dreaded Sunday shift, six workers and a student weave in and out of the rather shabby canteen for a mixture of fags, tea, Tupperware, "wedgies", one-liners and rumours about the boss and his custard tarts.

This provides the background against which the dramas are played out.

The first is the fact that Greggs (and please remember this is a work of fiction) have made a "cock up", forcing the lads to clock up another 3,000 loaves by the end of the shift, but the biggest is the news that the main oven is jammed, putting all their livelihoods in jeopardy.

Should they call the absent manager, Mr Beckett ( thus providing an excuse for the closure of the past-its-best plant?

Or should they literally risk life, limb (and in Dezzie's case the fact that he is "on a promise") to crawl inside the oven to free things up?

Another question is this: Who will rise victorious in the battle for the new plum job in Middlesbrough ( Blakey or the widely hated shop steward, Colin?

Is mature student and temporary worker Lance really the angel of death he claims, or just a "nutter"?

Shining out of a talented all male ensemble is Trevor Fox as ex-con and shift foreman Blakey.

Just as his character holds the evening's loaf production together, Live Theatre stalwart Mr Fox delivers a performance worthy of any mother's pride.

The irrepressibly optimistic Cecil, played by Gez Casey, Michael Gunn, as down-trodden bread-mix veteran Walter, and David Nellist, aka love-badger Dezzie, spellbound by his new immersion heater, also deserve praise.

Pebble-dashed with the strong language you could expect in a testosterone-fuelled environment, you don't feel the expletives are gratuitous.

There is a delightful comedic dialogue, nicely interspersed with well-timed darker moments.

I wouldn't say Toast was the best thing since sliced bread ( but if anyone can tell me what sliced bread knocked off the top spot, I'm here to be persuaded.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 24, 2004
Words:440
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