Henry VIII wives musical hits Malven audience for SIX

SIX’ started out in 2017 as a simple idea to take to the Edinburgh Fringe by two Cambridge university students, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss.

They had little stage writing experience to speak of, but simply wanted to address the gender balance and get more female toes on the still male-dominated stage.

It has of course, in a very short space of time, become an international phenomenon.

It is currently smashing it in the West End – the hottest ticket on Broadway and is now set to woo the provinces on its first national tour.

If this first night at Malvern is anything to go by, the triumph continues unabated – never have I witnessed such excitement nor seen such huge hordes of adoring fans besieging the stage door after the show.

This eureka of an idea was to do a new take on one of the oldest and most done-to-death historical tales – that of the six wives of Henry VIII.

Here though for the first time the main man is missing – yes in the words of the legendary Joe Brown: “That right old man name of Henry” is relegated off-stage.

The stars instead are his six much abused wives who appear as an all girl pop group to tell their tale in just 75 minutes of pure theatrical dynamite.

Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived was how I was taught to remember them – well, not any more! They are now Aragon, Boleyn, Seymour, Cleves, Howard and Parr as in ‘SIX’ the group.

The stellar cast (with full character names) comprise Lauren Drew as Catherine of Aragon, Maddison Bulleyment as Anne Boleyn, Lauren Byrne as Jane Seymour, Shekinah McFarlane as Anne of Cleves, Jodie Steele as Katherine Howard and Athena Collins as Catherine Parr.

They all rock and share the acting, singing and dancing talents in equal measure. No doubt folks will have their favourite Queen, me – I just loved them all!

I cannot emphasise enough how clever this show is – it’s a fusion of a rock concert, a musical and the most exciting history lesson imaginable.

The band – or ‘Ladies in Waiting’ – are a high-energy roof-raising four piece under the musical direction and magical keys of Arlene McNaught.

In another move to make this musical accessible to young ears, each of the Queens has a programme-listed ‘Queenspiration’ –  for example, Katherine Howard’s are Ariana Grande and Britney Spears.

Writer Lucy Moss is also a co-director alongside Jamie Armitage,  there is tight and effective choreography from Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, stunning frocks from Gabriella Slade and an all-electric neon 21st century set befitting the 16th century Queens.

SIX is the third all female cast show I have by chance seen in succession; namely ‘Pride and Prejudice (sort of)’  and ‘Jack the Ripper – The Victims’ and all three are quasi historical pieces adapted for the stage in very different ways. The winner by several lengths is SIX.

I’m sure there will be musical theatre purists who do not approve but for me if this introduces new, young audiences then its doing a great job. Marlow and Moss could no doubt retire from the royalties pouring in but I hope this is just the start of lots more from this new British theatrical writing royalty.

These Queens are set to reign for a long, long time.


SIX runs until Saturday, November 2. Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan Rose.

Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) at Birmingham Rep is a raucous romp

TO BE honest I’ve never really been excited by the literary works of Jane Austen.

I tried watching her ‘Sanditon’ currently showing on television but gave up halfway through the first episode.

Picture by Mihaela Bodlovic. s

I know ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is regarded as one of Britain’s best-loved books and I’ve tried to read it – honestly! – Because I felt I should, at least once a decade for the past 50 years but never completed the mission.

I have however seen the 2005 film version starring Keira Knightly and Mathew Macfadyen  so I know the story is about Mr Bennett’s five little girls who can’t inherit the estate because they’re not chaps!

They must therefore: ‘marry well’.

I don’t know what I was expecting from this co-production between ‘The Royal Lyceum’,’Tron Theatre’, ‘Blood of the Young’, ‘Birmingham REP’, ‘Bristol Old Vic’, ‘Leeds Playhouse’, ‘Northern Stage’, ‘Nuffield Southampton’ and ‘Oxford Playhouse’ (phew!) but with such a list of theatrical royalty it had to be something special – and indeed it was!

Picture by Mihaela Bodlovic. s

Writer and adapter Isobel McArthur gripped me with her version where Jane Austen failed.

The ‘sort of’ in the title is all embracing really.

It’s ‘sort of’ the original story – I was told by eminent Austen aficionados that nothing is left out – ‘sort of’ a musical – but not really, more a ‘sort of’ clever karaoke, ‘sort of’ an upstairs-downstairs comedy bordering on farce and yes, ‘sort-of’ a period drama brought bang up to date.

McArthur also appears as one of the magnificent cast of six women who multi-task and gender to create an evening of pure magic with a little madness and much mayhem. She is joined by Tori Burgess, Felixe Forde, Christina Gordon, Hannah Jarrett-Scott and Meghan Tyler – all of them offering up an equal amount of talent, energy and pure cheek with a Scottish accent.

Picture by Mihaela Bodlovic. s

Paul Brotherston obviously enjoyed directing this wondrous romp – there are so many clever moments, so much humour and – where  necessary – poignancy.

You can feel the skilled hand of a craftmaster at work gently sewing together the ideas and talents of this inclusive and collective all-female company.

Being in the audience was almost like being invited to a private party where everyone’s got interesting stories to tell – there is even one point when we are asked: “Are we all OK for drinks?”

Jane Austen was a spirited lady – I’m sure she would approve of McArthur’s hilarious 21st century take.

Picture by Mihaela Bodlovic. s

Despite all the humour the voices are strong and cleverly turn the tables on historic male dominance, with a nod to feminism whilst offering a big shout out to equality.

This ‘Pride & Prejudice’ is not ‘sort of’ but definitely bold, innovative and infectiously entertaining.

Pride & Prejudice* (*Sort Of) runs at the Birmingham Rep until November 2.

Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan Rose.

Roll up and roll back the years at the Birmingham Hippodrome’s stunning 1903 circus

ROLLING back the years – in this case all the way to 1903 – the circus is in town folks and what a splendid family night out it is!

Circus was what first thrilled audiences at the Birmingham Hippodrome when it opened at the turn of the 20th century, so it is more than fitting that they should choose this artistic medium to celebrate their 120th anniversary.

Of course, back then the show arrived into town on a specially-built circus train to house everything from bearded ladies to the kings and queens of the jungle animal world.

Now it arrives in a convoy of stretched lorries; there are no longer lions, tigers and horses – the Queen of the jungle and offspring are still included, however.

Stunning African Elephant puppets designed and built by the clever creators of Warhorse, Mervyn Millar and Tracy Waller and operated by a team of puppeteers headed by Mikey Brett and James Donovan are utterly believable and totally endearing.

There are jaw-dropping performances by exotically-named tumblers, jugglers, acrobats and contortionists from all over the world plus a non-stop cavalcade of mirth, mayhem and magic all under the leadership of ringmaster Willy Whipsnade aka David Williamson from the US of A.

Willy is there to entertain with close up magic before the show, bring delighted children to the stage to help him throughout and truly set the scene for a fabulous night under the big top stage.

He is quite simply ‘The Original Showman’.

The excitement of children of all ages chattering approval of an awesome nights entertainment radiated warmth as we exited 1903 and rejoined a cold night in the modern world of bustling Birmingham.

This highly recommended show runs at the Hippodrome until November 2.

Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan Rose.

Talented cast is the victim in ‘overwritten’ Ripper play

THE BLUE Orange Theatre is a small, fringe theatre on Constitution Hill in Birmingham where you can usually find well-performed, interesting theatre on offer.

This version of Jack the Ripper, told from the viewpoint of the five victims comprises an excellent, all female company – namely Gina George, Elise Evans, Sarah Jane Rose, Kaz Luckins and Asleigh Aston who play the hapless deceased Ripper victims, Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly respectively, plus a myriad of other cross-gender roles.

I would happily watch these fine actresses again in other roles as they worked together so well, supporting each other and never dominating. It was obvious that they had put a great deal of thought and collaboration into this production in harmony with their drector Oliver Hume.

My problem is with the script by Mark Webster, which I feel is more of a book of many words than a play with pauses for thought.

There is so much ‘said’ that we are not really given time to think about what we are listening to or watching.

It suffers from repetition which makes it difficult to follow who’s who and the best clues were the  costumes by Simon Ravenhill.

When we get to the murders themselves having given the gory details once about what Jack carved up and where he put it, with the audience taking a collective intake of breath at the thought, the senses become dulled as this is then repeated for every corpse.

In the actual story telling there was too many slapped hands for slapped faces as a substitute for physical theatre.

Constantly using this technique dulls the impact, theatre should always be about surprise not expectation.

I recently reviewed ‘Pride and Prejudice –well sort of’ showing at the REP where an all female cast also act out a classic story. The ladies of the Blue Orange Company are their acting equals but have unequal material to work with.

It may be there is a good play here but a scythe needs to be taken to the script then what remains rewritten making it into an intense one act plus, dare I say, add some lighter moments.

Finally in the walkdown – ladies, please come out of character and smile – the play is over so let us show our appreciation of your hard work to the living not the deceased.

Running until November 2, it is worth going to see this show – for the talented cast.

Jack the Ripper – The Victims runs at the Blue Orange Theatre until November 2.

for times, tickets and more information.

***Review by Euan Rose. 

The Girl on the Train – out of the West End sidings and back on track in Malvern

TO ME, one of the most satisfying things about travelling by train – and I’m talking here of course of sitting ensconced in a comfortable window seat, not toe-to-toe on a crowded commuter cattle truck – is the ever changing kaleidoscopic view.

Outside is a world to which you can add your own fantasies, giving life to the people in their houses and gardens as you see it, not necessarily how it is.

Picture by Michelle George. s

Essentially, this is the premise at the core of ‘The Girl On The Train;’ a thriller adapted for the stage by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel from the best-selling novel by Paula Hawkins.

Samantha Womack engages from the get-go, putting in a first class performance as Rachel Watson, the train commuter who has developed a perfect chocolate box story around a couple she sees most days in their house as her train rattles by.

Rachel’s imaginary life-players are Scott and Megan, played by Oliver Farnworth and Kirsty Oswald, both of whom deftly develop their characters on this high-speed episodic journey. In Rachel’s daydream, the life they are living is the exact opposite of the broken marriage she is still reeling from. Whilst she has become a borderline alcoholic, her ex-hubby Tom (an excellent many-layered portrayal by Adam Jackson-Smith) has remarried and has a newborn baby to accompany his new wife.

When Rachel doesn’t see Megan from her train window one day but spots an incumbent embracing Scott, her perfect vision is shattered like a piece of irreplaceable crystal. Megan is indeed missing and Rachel turns drunken super sleuth to find out what has happened.

There I will leave the plot  – as with all good ‘whodunits’ if I told you it was the butler (which it wasn’t!) it would spoil your theatre trip – suffice it to say there is many a metaphorical railway siding and deserted station to go down until the final destination.

Picture by by Manuel Harlan. s

Anthony Banks’ direction is tight, fast-moving and makes full use of gadgetry. James Cotterill has designed a set that moves in and out of our windows of vision so that we also observe the goings on from a train-like perspective. This feeling is heightened by dramatic sound design by Ben and Max Ringham and stunning projection effects  by Andrzej Goulding.

Something must have happened to this production as it received very poor reviews on its short West End run, yet on this, the Malvern leg of a long UK-wide tour, I can say with all honesty that it is a most agreeable and satisfying watch.

Picture by by Manuel Harlan. s

Remember Les Mis and Blood Brothers initially suffered the same West End critical fate – then went on the road and returned triumphantly like Roman armies re-entering their capital to roars and garlands of approval. I think the same may well happen here.

A whodunit for the modern stage and well worth seeing.

The Girl on the Train  is at Malvern Theatres until Monday, October 28.

Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan Rose.

D-Day weather play Pressure cooks up a storm at the Crescent

WHO WOULD have thought that a play about opinionated weather forecasters would make great theatre?

Certainly not me, nor did I realise that were it not for the persistence of one feisty little Scotsman Dr James Stagg, D-Day may well have meant D for disaster – rather than D for designation day.

Picture by Graeme Braidwood. s

‘Pressure’ is a very apt, all-inclusive title, which describes the days when the allied commanders were under unimaginable pressure to press the button on the right day to launch the invasion of Europe. Whilst they deliberated, British, American and other allied troops waited restlessly to cross the channel to the Normandy beaches.

Meteorological pressure concerns the weight of air above the clouds, which can force them to shed their waters.

Should stormy weather spring up, many would never even make it to the fray, but rather be lost at sea along with their military hardware. Likewise if the clouds were too black, the air force couldn’t fly and provide the necessary cover.

Picture by Graeme Braidwood. s

There is even more pressure in the fact that Stagg’s wife is in hospital somewhere having a bad time with a baby that just won’t come forth whilst he is bunkered away in the most secret of secret war offices knowing that what a wrong forecast will not only cost tens of thousands of lives but set the course of history.

Enter Weatherman 2  (no not the infamous Michael Fish, he was still in his cradle) American super weather sleuth Colonel Irving ‘P’ Krick – Krick, who predicts fair weather for D-Day on June 4 whilst Stagg is convinced there’s almighty storms brewing and the date must therefore be moved.

Just whose predictions will Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D ‘Ike’ Eisenhower and his fellow commanders go by? Therein hangs the plot of this superbly tense piece of theatre by the talented writer/actor David Haig who also played Stagg in the West End.

Picture by Graeme Braidwood. s

The Crescent theatre company was, and I promise this is the last time I will use the pun in this review ‘under pressure’ – to come up with an all-but-one male cast of actors that could do justice to the play, the history – or worthy of the officers military uniforms so superbly provided by costumers’ Vera Dean and Pat Brown.

‘Ike’s message to all on D-day June 6, 1944, was   – “We will accept nothing less than full victory! Good luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”  No doubt director Karen Leadbetter said similar things to her cast before they ventured forth on opening night. They certainly did her proud and she them in painting this production with a deft and steady hand.

Martin Tedd has a mighty task to engage us as the irascible meteorological genius that was ‘Stagg’ and my word, he delivers. We feel the struggles that rage within and cheer for him when the rain finally buckets down as he predicted.

The huge talent that is Colin Simmonds is absolutely mesmerising as General ‘Ike’ – the attention to every detail of his mannerisms has to go down as one of the greatest performances in Crescent history and I don’t say that lightly as I’ve witnessed many over the decades.

Robert Laird is spot on as Colonel Irving ‘P’ Krick the ‘other’ weatherman. His accent is faultless and his characterisation a perfect essay in understated believability.

Picture by Graeme Braidwood. s

Griff Llewelyn-Cook captures the youthful exuberance of Stagg’s  weather groupie and number one believer ‘Andrew’, Michael Barry plays General ‘Tooey’ Spaatz superbly as a tough no-nonsense hawk and Brian Wilson in addition to his Admiral ‘Bertie’ Ramsay role gives a deliciously welcome little cameo as a talk-till-he drops electrician ’who only came to install some phones’ but finds himself in a ‘Hotel California’  fix where he can’t check out.

Alexandria Carr is the sole female member of the cast – she plays girl-Friday Lt Kay Summersby around whom all things revolve. She is a rock and confidant to all, which Carr captures perfectly – she is a highly watchable talented young actress.

Dave Hill, Darren Haddock and Carl Latham complete the line-up of this stellar company.

The war-come-weather room set by Keith Harris and Rosie Anderson is perfect, as are the extensive meteorological props by Andrew Lowrie, Jackie Blackwood and Carolyn Bourne.

Light and Sound from John Gray, Patrick McCool, Ray Duddin and Wanda Raven work in perfect harmony to take us into the very soul of the action. Whoever came up with the idea of fanning damp air like washing on a clothesline wafting into the auditorium deserves an Oscar for smell-a-long genius.

‘Pressure’ is a play that the Ron Barber studio was designed to stage – it is an evening’s theatre to be savoured – an all round triumph and destined to become legendary.

Pressure runs at The Crescent until Saturday, October 26.

Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan Rose.

Dazzling Queen Priscilla reigns in Malvern until Saturday

TWENTY-five years ago the quirky, low-budget movie about drag and friendship – ‘The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ was an instant hit.

Thirteen years ago the first Iconic stage musical production version also wowed its audiences.

Now there’s a new ‘Priscilla’ and the national tour launched triumphantly last night at Malvern Theatres.


Picture by Darren Bell. s

For the uninitiated, this is a musical adventure about three friends who happen to be drag queens, on a personal quest in a tour bus called Priscilla. They travel across Australia from Sydney to Alice Springs – and what a splendid journey it is!

Accomplished actor and ‘Strictly’ winner Joe McFadden is totally captivating as the gentle Tick/Mitzi, a queen with a past that includes fathering a son he has never seen – hence the reason for his journey.

He is joined for the fun of it by the outrageous but undeniably body-beautiful Felicia/Adam (played with lashings of passion and credibility by Nick Hayes) and the ageing Bernadette – a beautifully understated performance by Miles Western, which makes you listen and care.

Whilst Tick and Adam are gay men and female impersonators, Bernadette has had a sex change to become the woman that was born inside her body – quite a daring role to include in the original film 25 years ago and way before transgender was an acceptable conversation topic.

The trio are supported by a first-class singing and dancing ensemble, plus three magical divas, Rosie Glossop, Claudia Kariuki and Aiesha Pease; all of whom have lung power to raise the roof.

I have two special hat-doffing mentions; firstly Daniel Fletcher as Bob the heart of gold mechanic who falls for Bernadette and secondly Jacqui Sanchez as Bob’s outrageous bi-polar Thai-bride, who outrageously puts the ‘ping’ into Ping-Pong.

The ‘creatives’ include frantic and breathtaking choreography by Tom Jackson Greaves – spot-on direction from Ian Talbot, a wondrous collage of clap-a-long, sing-a-long musical arrangements by Stephen ‘Spud’ Murphy (thank you Spud for including one my all-time favourite classics – MacArthur Park) and stunning-glittering settings plus delectable and endless feathers and frocks by Charles Cusick-Smith and Phil R Daniels.

Hats off too, to Ben Cracknell for magical lighting and Ben Harrison for excellent sound – not an easy gig for this team with a zillion glittering sequins to contend with!

Long may this Queen reign – absolutely loved it and exited the auditorium with an aching jaw from laughing so much; tears of pure joy in my eyes and the happy pounding music of a great band under the musical direction of Sean Green.

Never has a musical revival been more timely – unmissable!

The show runs in Malvern until Saturday. Click here or call the box office on 01684 892277 for tickets, times and more information.

Review by Euan Rose.


Star ratings explained

***** Fabulous – Drop everything and go

****   Very good – Definitely worth seeing

***     Good

**       OK



Pictures by Darren Bell



Robert Lindsay is chink of light in Birmingham Rep’s ‘flawed masterpiece’ Prism

TERRY Johnson is undoubtedly one of our greatest living playwrights, just as Robert Lindsay is one of our greatest living actors.

‘Prism’ is Johnson’s first full-length play in over a decade and one he has also elected to direct.

This powerful combination have a string of awards to their names, Johnson is almost as famous as a Broadway and West End director as he is a writer and Lindsay has given us some of the greatest TV and big screen comedic and classical offerings plus some sparkling musical theatre. With this thought in mind, I was perhaps expecting too much.

As with most of his plays ‘Prism’ concerns a unique person from show business history – in this case it is perhaps the greatest lighting cameramen and director of photography ever in the history of cinematography.

Jack Cardiff, who among a myriad of industry gongs, won Oscars for his legendary movies ‘Black Narcissus’ and ‘The Red Shoes’.

In the Cardiff role, Lindsay is all consuming and offers perhaps the greatest stage performance of his career.

He totally captures not just the talents of Cardiff but also his magnetism to women – to whom he often made love not just with the camera but in reality.

Though as Jack says, he wasn’t a kiss and tell kind of chap.

Lindsay also touches on Cardiff’s experimentation with prisms which he used to create unique screen textures and colours known affectionately as ‘Painting with Light’.

At the time we meet Cardiff he is in the grip of dementia and so his recollections are often the past merging into the present.

There are patches where we, the audience, share his confusion and I‘m not sure this is what the writer intends.

Cardiff has come to live with his son Mason – a capable performance from Oliver Hembrough – and his wife Nicola, an exquisite outing for Tara Fitzgerald.

Mason and Nicola live in Buckinghamshire where they have converted their garage into a den of memorabilia for Cardiff to relax and relive and perhaps write his autobiography, which Mason has, designs on publishing.

Victoria Blunt completes this four-hander as Lucy, a carer-come-typist who falls under the charm of the ailing maestro.

The opening where we just see feet under the garage door as Cardiff demonstrates screen sizes via raising the Cinerama shaped garage door up and down seems to go on interminably before it actually rises fully and the action truly begins.

In truth I found act one in total a tad ponderous whilst the format of seeing life through Cardiff’s Alzheimer-fuelled eyes is established.

Lindsay, mostly rises above the clunkiness with some much-needed and obvious humour as release buttons.

The act does end on a magical note as the garage walls and roof fly out and we are transported deep into the heat of the sweltering African jungle.

I found act two far more satisfying from the moment it opens on the making of ‘The African Queen’ where Mason is Humphrey Bogart and Nicola is Katherine Hepburn – both put in fine cameos. Jack Cardiff is his young self and we see him in his prime.

As Cardiff’s dementia gathers pace and his grip on reality decreases the play becomes more like watching a film being made than a play being acted.

It culminates in a quite wondrous kaleidoscopic view of his final vision seen through his personal prism.

Heroes and masters of their craft indeed are Johnson and Lindsay – maybe I’m doing them in a disservice when I say I found this Prism a ‘flawed masterpiece’.

Like Jack Cardiff’s mind flitting in and out of his personal reality I too had moments of lost concentration – then again there were times when I felt I was witnessing theatrical magic.

Prism runs until Saturday, October 12.

Click here for tickets, times and more information.

Review by Euan Rose.

Blood Brothers flows better in the second half at the Hippodrome

WILLY Russell wrote the book, lyrics and composed the music for the much-loved ‘Scouse’ musical Blood Brothers – about two brothers separated by birth – nearly 40 years ago now.

Amazingly it failed to attract an audience in its first West End run – then Bill Kenwright got hold of it and breathed new life via a tour which gained in reputation at every outing until it went back to London like a gladiator entering an arena and  the rest is history.

I have seen at least four different productions and enjoyed every one including this latest 2019 version at the Birmingham Hippodrome directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright.

Lyn Paul has played the mother of the twins, Mrs Johnstone, several times over the last couple of decades – the programme note says this is her swansong in the role. She is excellent and stands out in a cast that is talented but fairly inexperienced.

It seemed to me that the two acts are two different shows – act one where the twins Mickey (Alexander Patmore) and Eddie (Joel Benedict) are seven-going-on-eight year-old children and along with elder brother Sammy lacked believability.

They simply tried too hard to act as kids and end giving over-hyped performances.

In act two, where they are older, everything is calmer and more engaging.

Danielle Corlass as Linda is quite delightful throughout – Chloe Taylor as Mrs Lyons is rightly disturbing whilst Hannah Barr makes the most of her cameos.

Robbie Scotcher, mostly seen peering out of windows and behind walls, gives a haunting performance as the all-seeing narrator.

The climax where the brothers discover they really are brothers and the tragedy that ends the sad tale is simply awesome.

The final number ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’ is one of the most powerful anthems ever written and the company does it justice.

The standing ovation is deserved but would be even more so if the brakes were applied earlier.

Blood Brothers runs until next Saturday, October 12.

Click here for times, tickets and more information.

Review by Euan Rose.

Pop up to Malvern Theatres to catch chef Nigel Slater’s biographical ‘Toast’

MY FAVOURITE chocolate treat for as long as I can remember has been a ‘Walnut Whip’ – it was always the prize at the bottom of the Christmas stocking.

I mention this random fact before getting into the nitty-gritty of the review as every audience member was given one as we re-entered for the second act – with the request that we all ate them collectively at the appropriate moment which would be made clear – more of this later.

Picture by Piers Foley. s

‘Toast’ is based on Nigel Slater’s best-selling bittersweet biography. The stage script by Henry Filloux Bennett probes deeply into Slater’s psyche whilst remaining quite enchanting – it’s lovingly directed and choreographed by Jonnie Riordan. Take my word it’s simply wonderful!

From the moment you enter the auditorium the experience begins, commencing with the pleasant aroma of slightly burnt toast wafting all around. It makes seated neighbours smile and join in silent cravings for the satisfying crunch that only wicked white toast smothered in lashings of butter can bring.

Libby Watson’s set comprises a stretched picture–book kitchen with the word TOAST hanging above so that the kitchen appears to be a slice of toast in a giant toaster, the fridge doubles as a door – ingenious.

Picture by Piers Foley. s

Carrying on with the creatives, a special shout out to the poignant soundtrack by Alexandra Faye Braithwaite who seemed to have included all my 60s favourites complete with scratching needle – all so apt with none more so than Bobby Vinton’s ‘Blue Velvet’ – the sweetest of love songs which since David Lynch used it in the film of the same name has become a perverse omen.

Here it is the backdrop for one of the last beautiful moments between young Nigel and his mother as they waltz on the worktop before she becomes terminally ill.

The story is simple, but told with a complexity that is like the masterful icing and decoration of a common sponge – the production is a soufflé of satisfying theatre.

Picture by Piers Foley. s

Giles Cooper is splendid with out being soppy in an ‘adult-playing-child’ way, Cooper is immensely believable as he takes us into the inner sanctum of Nigel’s thoughts on his coming-of-age journey.

Katy Federman is delightfully dithering as ‘mum’ and Blair Plant gives a quite extraordinary performance as ‘dad’ – a father way out of his comfort zone with a son discovering his feminine side.

Samantha Hopkins as Joan has a better Birmingham accent than any Peaky Blinder and makes for a glorious wicked stepmother. Her ‘battle of the baking’ with Nigel is quite riotous.

Stefan Edwards completes the company doubling as the gardener Josh and a ballet student, both of whom are cornerstones in Nigel’s sexual awakening.

We were graced on press night at Malvern with Nigel Slater himself sitting unobtrusively in the stalls. I wanted to tell him how much I admired his culinary passion and shared his penchant for Walnut Whips – but resisted on both counts. I just dutifully bit the end off my treasure and ran my tongue around inside the chocolate cone when instructed to by the Nigel’s dad as he describes rather a naughty moment.

Many happy memories are based around food, friends and family – this is a show that merges food and theatre so cleverly that you want to lick the bowl.

Toast runs until Saturday, October 5, at Malvern Theatres. Click here to see how you get your slice of this tantalising piece of theatre.

Review by Euan Rose.

Pictures by Piers Foley