Recent Theatre Royal seasons have seen a number of productions from the pen of award-winning playwright Richard Bean delight and entertain audiences – most notably the international hit One Man, Two Guvnors.
Coming to the theatre from February 29 to March 5, his brilliantly observed and moving drama set in a bread factory – Toast – will star the multi-talented and Olivier award-winning actor Matthew Kelly, who entranced audiences and critics alike with his performance as a chain-smoking curmudgeon on the brink of retirement during the show’s London revival in 2014.
The play, one of Richard Bean’s earliest, originally premiered in 1999 and is based on his experiences as an apprentice baker in the 1970s. It will start its UK tour at the Rose Theatre, Kingston, on February 4, and continue through to April 9, visiting Norwich on the way, before heading for New York.
Also reprising his role in Toast is Simon Greenall, best known for playing Michael opposite Steve Coogan’s alter-ego Alan Partridge.
The action opens with another Sunday night shift, the smell of bread baking and the industrial thump, thump, thump of the machines that never stop. The ovens are cranked up to full blast, the factory is humming, and everyone wants to be somewhere else.
But this particular shift is destined to be different, because when a crisis hits the factory, the men have more to lose than just their wages.
Matthew Kelly is delighted to be returning to tour the role he played in the West End. “I love working in the provinces much more than in the West End because you’re performing amongst a community and that’s very important to me,” he said.
His character, Walter ‘Nellie’ Nelson, is a man who has worked at the factory all his life. He is battered by a lifetime of hard labour, but is the emotional heart of the play. “It’s the story of seven incredible (and real) blokes in a bakery in Hull 1975. It’s a big hearted, incredibly moving play about real people within a real community and I feel very honoured to be playing one of them again. Oh, and of course it’s very funny,” he says.
Joining him on stage is writer and actor Simon Greenall, who used to be one of Matthew’s staff writers on You Bet, the TV game show Matthew hosted in the early 1990s. Nowadays, Simon is known for starring alongside Steve Coogan in the Alan Partridge TV series and film Alpha Papa, as the spoof Radio Norwich DJ’s erstwhile Geordie friend Michael, a role which involved filming in Norwich, and he also voices the Meerkats in the Compare the Meerkat television commercials.