009 – Nigel Slater’s Toast, by Henry Filloux-Bennett

Jul 23, 2020 | Podcast Episodes | 0 comments

Nigel Slater’s award-winning memoir Toast was adapted into an award-winning play in 2018 by Henry Filloux-Bennett. The book and the play tell the story of Nigel’s childhood through his memories of the food that he grew up with and that inspired him to become the renowned cook and writer. Interwoven with the culinary descriptions and demonstrations – there are real savoury treats to be experienced – the play gives us a child’s-eye view of the most important relationships and events in his young life: the death of his beloved mother at age 10; his father’s strict and scary presence; the battle with his stepmother over supremacy in the kitchen, and his final escape to London to pursue his dream of becoming a cook. Nigel Slater’s Toast  is a funny, touching and truthful portrait of a boy who finds the courage to follow his own recipe in life. 

The play premiered at the Lowry theatre in Manchester in 2018, before a sold-out run at the Traverse in Edinburgh that summer, followed by a four-month run at The Other Palace in London, and a UK tour. The play won the Cameo Award in 2018 for best adaptation of a stage play from a published book.

As the play finds another outing as an online play produced by the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield, I’m delighted to talk with its two authors Henry Filloux-Bennett and Nigel Slater himself. 

Henry Filloux-Bennett

Henry Filloux-Bennett has worked for organisations including The Lowry, Bill Kenwright Ltd, Theatre Royal Haymarket, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Nottingham Playhouse and HighTide Festival, as well as having produced independently. From 2010 to 2012 he was Artistic Director of the Old Red Lion Theatre in London, during which time the theatre enjoyed a West End transfer and a transfer off- Broadway.

As a writer Henry’s first play Wasted was produced at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and was picked as Critics’ Choice by The Spectator. He subsequently wrote the world premiere stage adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Decline & Fall which was produced at the Old Red Lion, before writing Nigel Slater’s Toast in 2018.

In 2019 he joined the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield as Chief Executive and Artistic Director. Most recently he wrote The Understudy, based on the novel by David Nicholls, which was adapted as an online play broadcast by the theatre in June 2020 to raise funds for the theatre industry, and starring Stephen Fry, Russell Tovey, Sarah Hadland and Sheila Atim.

Nigel Slater

Nigel Slater OBE is the presenter of nine BBC television series, and the author of a collection of bestselling book including the classics Appetite, two-volumes of Tender, as well as The Kitchen Diaries trilogy. Nigel’s most recent book, GreenFeast, was published in two parts in 2019: GreenFeast Spring/ Summer and GreenFeast Autumn/Winter.

Nigel’s childhood memoir Toast was published in 2003 and won a number of awards, including the Andre Simon and Glenfiddich Book of the year awards, as well as the Biography of the Year at the British Book Awards in 2004. Toast is distinguished for its distinctive form of autobiography: the child’s perspective leaves out much of the usual background detail about the other people in his life and focuses instead on his emotional relationships with food and the people closest to him, his mother, father and step-mother. It is also touchingly open and honest about his young hopes and fears, and it is written in the gloriously clear and sensuous prose.

Many of us know Nigel best for his much-loved weekly cookery column, which he has written for The Observer for the past twenty-seven years. It is the combination of his sharing realistic recipes that we believe we ourselves can make with a prose that is full of his love of the tangible experience of food that is so captivating.

Nigel believes there is something quietly civilizing about sharing a meal with other people. “The simple act of making someone something to eat, even a bowl of soup or a loaf of bread, has a many-layered meaning. It suggests an act of protection and caring, of generosity and intimacy. It is in itself a sign of respect.” It is perhaps this understanding of the emotional connection between food and people that is the source of the unique form of his childhood memoir that combines the two, Toast.

Photo credit: Jenny Zarins

The Texts

If you are interested in buying the play text or other related books, we’d be delighted if you choose to purchase them by following the links below. We will earn a small commission on every book you purchase, which helps to keep the podcast going. You will also be supporting an independent bookseller. Thank you.

Photo © Marc Brenner

We have footnotes for this episode …

Footnotes to episode nine on Nigel Slater’s Toast: how breakfasting on eggs every day can turn you into a star footballer, and the charms of Bournemouth versus Blackpool.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Suggest a play

We’re always open to suggestions about plays to talk about, so if you’d like us to discuss a favourite of yours, please email us at plays@theplaypodcast.com. Let us know why you think we should cover it, and if you know anyone who’d be excited and qualified to talk about it with us (even yourself if modesty permits!).

Plays suggested for discussion by our Guests and Listeners - which gets your vote?
  • Add your own suggestion

You might also be interested in …

021 – The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams

021 – The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams breakthrough playThe Glass Menagerie is a very personal portrait of Williams’ own flawed family. It first opened on Broadway in March 1945 to rave reviews, it’s box office success catapulting its 34-year old author to fame and fortune. The play is now a standard on educational curricula and theatrical programs, loved for its heart-wrenching portrayal of the hopes and disappointments of its characters, and admired for its theatrical technique and poetic dramatic language.

The play was brilliantly staged in 2013 on Broadway in a production directed by John Tiffany, which was revived in 2017 in London’s West End, and I am absolutely delighted to be joined in this episode by the director himself, John Tiffany, to share his insights into this enduring classic.

020 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, by Edward Albee

020 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, by Edward Albee

It is 2:00 am, and George and Martha have invited a young couple for after-party drinks to their home on a New England university campus. What follows is arguably the most extended and vitriolic marital argument ever staged. Over four hours of drunken skirmishing George and Martha tear strips off each other and their young guests, in a terrifying mix of games playing and truth telling, fuelled by anger, shame, disappointment, hatred and possibly even love. As the hostilities intensify both couples are forced to face unvarnished and difficult truths about themselves and their relationships. This is American playwright Edward Albee’s classic play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which opened on Broadway in 1962, and was greeted by both moral outrage and critical acclaim. Both types of review contributed to its run-away box-office success, and led to the 1966 Oscar-winning film version with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

Joining me to survey the damage of this blistering marital battle are John Mitchinson and Andy MIller, the co-hosts of the award-winning podcast Backlisted, which as its strap line declares “gives new life to old books”.

019 – The Welkin, by Lucy Kirkwood

019 – The Welkin, by Lucy Kirkwood

It is 1759 in East Anglia. A child has been murdered and a young woman has been convicted to hang for the crime. She ‘pleads her belly’ and a jury of matrons must determine if she is truly with child and thus may escape the gallows. Lucy Kirkwood’s powerful play The Welkin, is an historical thriller and a tense courtroom drama, as well as a vivid representation of the real burdens that women carry in a patriarchal world of any age.
The Welkin premiered at the National Theatre in January 2020 before its run was cruelly cut short by the first Covid lockdown. I’m delighted to be joined by the author herself to talk about her rich new play.

Recent Posts 

The 2020 Theatre Diary – March

The 2020 Theatre Diary – March

Before the theatres went dark this month I was lucky enough to see Caryl Churchill’s A Number at the Bridge, and spend more than seven hours in thrall to Robert Lepage’s Seven Streams of the River Ota at the National. Plus, some thoughts on what we miss when there is no theatre.

The 2020 Theatre Diary – January

The 2020 Theatre Diary – January

The January roundup included both classic plays, such as The Duchess of Malfi, Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters, as well as recent musicals Dear Evan Hansen and Girl from the North Country