Nigel Slater’s Toast – Footnotes
… “and be your best all day!” Nigel’s Dad has been persuaded by the advertisements from the Egg Marketing Board that if Nigel were to consume more eggs he would take a proper interest in masculine pursuits such as sports, rather than cooking. The image of Sam, the healthy young boy tucking into his breakfast eggs, along with the benefits of “protein, iron and vitamins”, is enough to convince Dad that “If you can see a healthy, sporty boy who can’t eat enough eggs and a spotty nancy boy who won’t eat any, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that eggs are the answer.”
The newspaper ads that Nigel was force fed were part of a long running campaign by the Egg Marketing Board that ran from 1957 to 1971, and included a famous series of TV ads featuring the comedian Tony Hancock that first appeared in 1965. Dad’s hope that the consumption of eggs would enhance his son’s sporting abilities was perhaps specifically engendered by an ad that featured the footballer George Best, who answers a letter from Sam with the exhortation: “I think you are quite right about having a proper egg breakfast everyday to do your best (no pun intended!), and always have one myself.” It must work!
Bournemouth or Blackpool
One of the rituals that remains most strongly in our memories from childhood are the family holidays. There is a wonderful evocation in the play of the Slater’s seaside holiday in Bournemouth, complete with recreations of formal meals in the hotel dining room, chicken sandwiches instead of fish and chips at the beach side cafe, and evening walks along the beach. The chosen holiday destination was also a statement about class, as are particular brands of food: Heinz ketchup, Salad cream, Camp Coffee and any brand of tea other than Twinings are “a bit common”.
Such trivial snobbishness can be difficult to shed, and may inform our wider judgements. There is definitely a suggestion of class differences and discomfort, for example, in the character of Nigel’s stepmother, Joan Potter, whose language and preferences do not proclaim the same background as the Slaters. This is underlined in Nigel’s original memoir by her choosing Blackpool rather than Bournemouth for the next holiday, with predictably miserable consequences.
Lynn Nottage’s play Clyde’s is set in a truck-stop diner on the outskirts of Reading, Pennsylvania. This is no ordinary diner though, because the short-order cooks that make the sandwiches that the diner is famous for are all ex-cons. The eponymous proprietor, Clyde, has not offered these characters a second chance out of the softness of her heart, but they discover some unexpected hope for their futures in their communal sufferings and support.
Lynn Nottage has won the Pulitzer Prize for drama twice, and as we record this episode the European premiere of Clyde’s is on stage at the Donmar Warehouse in London. I am delighted to be joined by the show’s director Lynette Linton, who also directed Nottage’s last play Sweat at the same theatre in 2018.
The poet Percy Shelley called King Lear “the most perfect specimen of the dramatic art existing in the world”. It is a prodigious play in every sense. There are ten major roles, it has multiple significant plot lines, an elemental stormy setting, intense domestic conflict, and acts of war and violence which roll on with a propulsive tragic energy and conjure a challenging philosophical vision.
As we record this episode a new production directed by and starring Sir Kenneth Branagh arrives in London’s West End.
I am very pleased to be joined in this episode by Paul Prescott, who is an academic, writer and theatre practitioner specialising in Shakespearean drama.
Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge tells the tragic story of Eddie Carbone, a longshoreman who works on the docks under Brooklyn Bridge. Eddie lives with his wife Beatrice and 17-year old niece, Catherine, whom they have cared for since she was a child. But Catherine is no longer a child, and her natural desire to pursue her own life will tragically rupture the lives of this family and the close-knit immigrant community of Red Hook.
As we record this episode a new production of A View from the Bridge is touring the UK, and I’m delighted to talk with its director, Holly Race Roughan, about this powerful play.
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.
Another great mix of shows this month, from Tom Stoppard’s new play, to Ibsen, Beckett and newer plays in smaller London venues.
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 …