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

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

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

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.

Recommended Plays

Henry recommended two plays:
Things I Know to be True by Andrew Bovell
The Inheritance by Matthew Lopez

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.

You might also be interested in …

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull was a disaster on its opening night in St Petersburg in 1896. The unsettling blend of comedy and pathos that confused the first critics and audience were subsequently recognised as seminal in the evolution of modern drama.

I’m delighted to welcome back playwright and professor, Dan Rebellato, to talk about Chekhov and his timeless play.

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

Patrick Marber’s play Closer depicts a merry-go-round of metropolitan relationships powered by sex and betrayal. Its clever and candid dissection of the destructive power of sexual desire hit a contemporary nerve when it premiered in 1997.
Clare Lizzimore, director of a new production at the Lyric Hammersmith, joins me to explore how the play’s unflinching sexual politics has aged twenty-five years later.

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

Jez Butterworth’s play Jersualem is one of the landmark plays of the 21st century, acclaimed for both its lyrical and elusive text exploring English identity, and for its electrifying theatrical production. The once-in-a lifetime performance is happily being repeated with the current West End revival, and it seems fitting that our 50th episode be devoted to this remarkable play. I’m joined by David Ian Rabey, Emeritus Professor at Aberystwyth University and author of The Theatre and Films of Jez Butterworth.

010 – Albion, by Mike Bartlett

010 – Albion, by Mike Bartlett

Victoria Hamilton and Nicholas Rowe in Albion at the Almeida – Photo Marc Brenner

010 – Albion, by Mike Bartlett

A grieving mother sets out to restore a garden of national importance in a bid to find personal peace and to promote historic British values that she fears may be lost in an increasingly pluralistic and global world. Mike Bartlett’s major new play Albion is not only a funny and moving portrait of an individual family and its immediate society under stress, but a metaphoric meditation on national identity. The form and spirit of the play echo Chekhov, with an ensemble of flawed and contrary characters rubbing up against each other in the confines of a country estate, each offering alternative values and ways to live, all of which are given a fair hearing in Bartlett’s empathetic vision.

Albion premiered at the Almeida theatre in London in 2017, when the country was absorbed in the Brexit debate and the play reverberated with the themes that divided the nation. It was revived at the same theatre with largely the same cast in February 2020, when the Brexit furore had tempered, and the play’s other motifs were allowed to flourish.

We are privileged to welcome to the podcast two guests who bring first-hand insights into the play from their starring in the leading roles in the Almeida productions: Victoria Hamilton, whose performance as the matriarch, Audrey, won her the Best Actress award at the 2018 Critics’ Circle Awards, and Nicholas Rowe, who played Audrey’s long-suffering but supportive husband, Paul.

Mike Bartlett is the author of an award-winning canon of plays such as Earthquakes in London, Contractions, Cock, Bull, Game, Love Love Love, Snowflake and King Charles III, which premiered at the Almeida, and transferred to the West End and Broadway, winning an Olivier award for Best New Play. He has been equally successful with his original TV screenplays for The Town and Dr Foster, as well as his BBC adaptation of King Charles III.

Victoria Hamilton

Victoria Hamilton trained at LAMDA, before she launched her award-winning career in Ibsen’s The Master Builder at the Haymarket Theatre in the West End, which won her the London Critics Circle Theatre Award for Most Promising Newcomer.

She went on to play Sheila in the West End run of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, which transferred to Broadway and for which she received a nomination on her debut for Best Actress at the Tony Awards. Her work since includes leading roles on the London stage in Suddenly Last Summer, Once in a Lifetime, Twelfth Night, and in another Mike Bartlett play, Love, Love, Love at the Royal Court, before her performance as Audrey in Albion.

Victoria’s film credits include Mansfield Park, Before You Go, Scoop, and French Film. An edited list of her TV credits include What Remains, The Game, Doctor Foster, The Circuit, , Urban Myths, Deep State, Cobra, and The Crown, for which she received critical acclaim in her role as The Queen Mother. She will also appear in Mike Bartlett’s upcoming BBC series Life.

Recommended Play

Victoria recommended Lungs by Duncan Macmillan – see episode 7!

Nicholas Rowe

Nicholas Rowe has appeared on many of London’s stages including The National, The Hampstead, The Bush, and Arcola as well as in two productions of Mike Bartlett plays at the Almeida, Albion and King Charles III, which also transferred to the West End. He has also appeared as William Pitt in Alan Bennett’s The Madness of George III in the West End alongside David Haig.

His recent TV work includes David Hare’s “Roadkill”, Belgravia, Riviera, as well as The Crown, and most recently the title role in a 3-part drama documentary about George Washington, due for UK release in the summer of 2020.

Recommended Play

Nick recommended On Blueberry Hill by Sebastian Barry.

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 …

Our Footnotes to the episode on Albion include observations on the echoes of Chekhov, Hidcote garden, being lady of the manor, having a purpose in life, the ‘beholders’ share’, and Claire Foy’s mother.

You might also be interested in …

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull was a disaster on its opening night in St Petersburg in 1896. The unsettling blend of comedy and pathos that confused the first critics and audience were subsequently recognised as seminal in the evolution of modern drama.

I’m delighted to welcome back playwright and professor, Dan Rebellato, to talk about Chekhov and his timeless play.

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

Patrick Marber’s play Closer depicts a merry-go-round of metropolitan relationships powered by sex and betrayal. Its clever and candid dissection of the destructive power of sexual desire hit a contemporary nerve when it premiered in 1997.
Clare Lizzimore, director of a new production at the Lyric Hammersmith, joins me to explore how the play’s unflinching sexual politics has aged twenty-five years later.

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

Jez Butterworth’s play Jersualem is one of the landmark plays of the 21st century, acclaimed for both its lyrical and elusive text exploring English identity, and for its electrifying theatrical production. The once-in-a lifetime performance is happily being repeated with the current West End revival, and it seems fitting that our 50th episode be devoted to this remarkable play. I’m joined by David Ian Rabey, Emeritus Professor at Aberystwyth University and author of The Theatre and Films of Jez Butterworth.

011 – Beginning, by David Eldridge

011 – Beginning, by David Eldridge

Sam Troughton and Justine Mitchell in Beginning at the National Theatre – Photo Johan Persson

011 – Beginning, by David Eldridge

Danny is the last guest remaining at Laura’s flat warming party. They have been eyeing each other up from afar all night, and now that they are left alone, Laura makes it clear that she wants Danny to stay. Surprisingly Danny does not immediately seize his chance. His confidence has taken a knock following an unhappy divorce, and the stakes and tension escalate for him when Laura declares that she is ovulating!

This is the simple, but deeply engaging premise of David Eldridge’s play Beginning, which premiered at the National Theatre in October 2017 before transferring to the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End in January 2018. Justine Mitchell as Laura and Sam Troughton as Danny rightly received critical acclaim for their performances, as did the play. It is funny, piercingly perceptive and profoundly moving in its portrait of two lonely people’s lives that have not yet turned out as hoped or promised. Perhaps this will be the beginning of something. The play’s author, David Eldridge, joins us to explore the how Danny and Laura came to life, and how their date night unfolds.

David Eldridge

David Eldridge is widely regarded as one of the most important playwrighting voices at work today. His plays include Under the Blue Sky which premiered at the Royal Court in 2000 and was revived in the West End in 2008 with Chris O’Dowd, Catherine Tate and Francesca Annis in the cast; and Festen, an adaptation of the film of the same name that premiered at the Almeida in 2005 before transferring to the West End and Broadway. He has also often written about Essex, where he originally comes from, in plays such as In Basildon which premiered at the Royal Court in 2012, as well as M.A.D. from 2004, and Market Boy in 2006, which were both partly informed by his childhood working on a stall at Romford market. The Knot of the Heart, which was produced by the Almeida Theatre in 2011, powerfully portays the terrible price of addiction wrought on a family. David has also successfully adapted classics from Ibsen and Strindberg, including The Wild Duck, John Gabriel Borkman and Miss Julie. He has also written for TV, including the screenplay for The Scandalous Lady W on BBC, and he lends the experience and expertise he has gained in his impressive career to his role as a lecturer in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London, and in his teaching screenwriting for the Arvon Foundation.

Recommended Play

David recommended Across Oka by Robert Holman.

Portrait by Claire McNamee
Lumb Bank, 2019

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 …

Our Footnotes to the episode on Beginning include observations on what the epigraphs signal about the play, measuring ourselves on the property ladder, the language of sex, and how standing in your underwear is the ultimate honesty.

You might also be interested in …

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull was a disaster on its opening night in St Petersburg in 1896. The unsettling blend of comedy and pathos that confused the first critics and audience were subsequently recognised as seminal in the evolution of modern drama.

I’m delighted to welcome back playwright and professor, Dan Rebellato, to talk about Chekhov and his timeless play.

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

Patrick Marber’s play Closer depicts a merry-go-round of metropolitan relationships powered by sex and betrayal. Its clever and candid dissection of the destructive power of sexual desire hit a contemporary nerve when it premiered in 1997.
Clare Lizzimore, director of a new production at the Lyric Hammersmith, joins me to explore how the play’s unflinching sexual politics has aged twenty-five years later.

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

Jez Butterworth’s play Jersualem is one of the landmark plays of the 21st century, acclaimed for both its lyrical and elusive text exploring English identity, and for its electrifying theatrical production. The once-in-a lifetime performance is happily being repeated with the current West End revival, and it seems fitting that our 50th episode be devoted to this remarkable play. I’m joined by David Ian Rabey, Emeritus Professor at Aberystwyth University and author of The Theatre and Films of Jez Butterworth.

012 – Footnotes 1

012 – Footnotes 1

012 – Footnotes 1

This episode is a selection of the Footnotes that we’ve compiled during the research and conversations that we’ve had so far on the podcast. It is a recorded smorgasbord of fragments, with titbits of information in the best tradition of footnotes, as well as additional observations of my own on each play. So if you’re interested in:

  • How many copies of A Doll’s House were sold when it was first published
  • Who Tennessee Williams chose as his favourite writer(s)
  • What Samuel Beckett thought of the Lord Chamberlain
  • Why lipstick is important to the mothers of Aberfan
  • Where Shakespeare’s real life inspiration for The Tempest came from
  • The significance of the island of Torcello to Robert and Emma in Pinter’s Betrayal
  • How an Icelandic volcano lay behind Duncan Macmillan’s meditations about climate change in Lungs
  • Why Peggy Ashcroft felt naked as Hester Collyer in The Deep Blue Sea
  • How going to work on an egg might turn you into a footballer rather than a famous cook
  • What the “beholders’ share” is, or
  • Where the “pesto triangle” is

among many other trivial and profound footnotes, join me for our ragbag review of the plays that we’ve talked about over the past eleven episodes.

PS You are of course also welcome to read the full set of Footnotes for each episode here on the website.

You might also be interested in …

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull was a disaster on its opening night in St Petersburg in 1896. The unsettling blend of comedy and pathos that confused the first critics and audience were subsequently recognised as seminal in the evolution of modern drama.

I’m delighted to welcome back playwright and professor, Dan Rebellato, to talk about Chekhov and his timeless play.

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

Patrick Marber’s play Closer depicts a merry-go-round of metropolitan relationships powered by sex and betrayal. Its clever and candid dissection of the destructive power of sexual desire hit a contemporary nerve when it premiered in 1997.
Clare Lizzimore, director of a new production at the Lyric Hammersmith, joins me to explore how the play’s unflinching sexual politics has aged twenty-five years later.

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

Jez Butterworth’s play Jersualem is one of the landmark plays of the 21st century, acclaimed for both its lyrical and elusive text exploring English identity, and for its electrifying theatrical production. The once-in-a lifetime performance is happily being repeated with the current West End revival, and it seems fitting that our 50th episode be devoted to this remarkable play. I’m joined by David Ian Rabey, Emeritus Professor at Aberystwyth University and author of The Theatre and Films of Jez Butterworth.

013 – Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller

013 – Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller

Wendell Pierce as Willy Loman at the Young Vic Theatre, London, 2019 (c. Brinkoff Moegenburg)

013 – Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller’s great American classic Death of a Salesman is surely one of the most famous plays in history, being a constant on stages around the world and an enduring standard on educational curriculums. Miller’s psychological portrait of the eponymous salesman, Willy Loman, became emblematic of the personal challenges and costs for ordinary people in pursuit of the American Dream. It remains popular and relevant not just for its social commentary, but also for its innovative dramatic form and language, and for the emotional power of its characters and story.

We are delighted to welcome Dr Stephen Marino, founder of the Arthur Miller Society, to the podcast, who joins us from New York to explore how a play about a particular American family written more than seventy years ago continues to provoke and move us.

Dr Stephen Marino

Stephen Marino is the founding editor of The Arthur Miller Journal, which features essays on all aspect of Miller’s life, work, and career. It is published by the Arthur Miller Society, in cooperation with the Arthur Miller Centre at the University of East Anglia and St. Francis College in Brooklyn, where Dr Marino is also on the faculty.
He is also the former president of the Arthur Miller Society, and his work on Arthur Miller has appeared in many journals and essay collections. He is the editor and author of several books on Miller, including Death of a Salesman & The Crucible – A Reader’s Guide to Essential Criticism (2015), Arthur Miller’s Century, Essays Celebrating the 100th Birthday of America’s Great Playwright (2017) and most recently Arthur Miller for the 21st Century – Contemporary Views of his Writings and Ideas published in 2020.
When I contacted Stephen to ask him if he’d join me on the podcast his response was that “he never passes up the opportunity to talk about Miller!”

Recommended Play

Stephen recommended A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller.

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 …

The Footnotes to our Death of a Salesman episode cover the real life salesman in Miller’s family, why Happy likes bowling, more on fathers and sons, and on the fluid form of the play.

You might also be interested in …

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull was a disaster on its opening night in St Petersburg in 1896. The unsettling blend of comedy and pathos that confused the first critics and audience were subsequently recognised as seminal in the evolution of modern drama.

I’m delighted to welcome back playwright and professor, Dan Rebellato, to talk about Chekhov and his timeless play.

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

Patrick Marber’s play Closer depicts a merry-go-round of metropolitan relationships powered by sex and betrayal. Its clever and candid dissection of the destructive power of sexual desire hit a contemporary nerve when it premiered in 1997.
Clare Lizzimore, director of a new production at the Lyric Hammersmith, joins me to explore how the play’s unflinching sexual politics has aged twenty-five years later.

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

Jez Butterworth’s play Jersualem is one of the landmark plays of the 21st century, acclaimed for both its lyrical and elusive text exploring English identity, and for its electrifying theatrical production. The once-in-a lifetime performance is happily being repeated with the current West End revival, and it seems fitting that our 50th episode be devoted to this remarkable play. I’m joined by David Ian Rabey, Emeritus Professor at Aberystwyth University and author of The Theatre and Films of Jez Butterworth.