TOAST is a tale of 'growing up with food.'

But there is so much more to this beautifully-structured piece of theatre at Liverpool Playhouse than food glorious food.

This is not a musical yet the lovingly-selected songs played here, many familiar to the wide-age group audience, include '60s hits such as Then He Kissed Me to the Talking Heads classic Psycho Killer and all act as the perfect atmospheric backdrop.

It is the early life of much-loved celebrity chef Nigel Slater played by Giles Cooper from nine-year-old likeable lad in school uniform to teenager on the brink of a dazzling career.

It is a back story to a career that we have grown to admire from his newspaper columns to books and sparkling TV shows.

But Nigel's life has had many slices of tragedy topped with tears.

Cookery was his escape and this captured with biting emotion from a Blair Plant as his violent father and Samantha Hopkins (with impressive black country accent) as over-bearing stepmother.

The magic ingredient of this production is that you like and can relate to the central character the moment he appears on stage and as he stays the full course, so to speak, for the duration of the two-hour 20 minute (with interval) play.

A multi-purpose kitchen set courtesy of designer Libby Watson is where this real-life story, written by Henry Filloux-Bennett and based on Nigel’s memoirs, unfolds and there's some lovely visual treats as he is taught how to bake mince pies by his ailing mother.

His father also tries his hand at culinary skills but then things go horribly wrong one Christmas. It is reminiscent of a Dickens novel.

I won't give away any further elements as the play is all the better for pleasing he audience with its multi-sensory approach.

Director and choregrapher Jonnie Riordan cooks up a well-paced drama.

It breaks the fourth wall many times without affecting the flow and there are some delightful sweet surprises, too, which take audience participation to new, fun levels.

Giles Cooper has played the role of Nigel in 200 performances to date.

He is supremely confident serving up pathos, happiness, sadness and confusion in equal measure.

From the moment you enter the theatre to the smell of burnt toast all is explained in a nostalgic journey of life, love and inspiring, heart-felt ambition.

My compliments to food director James Thompson and the five- strong cast including Stefan Edwards as Josh.

Toast is an experience you will find hard to forget as you savour the past through helpings of melancholy and dollops of joy.

Five stars


The production is on until this Saturday (September 14).

Tickets from the box office on 0151 709 4776.