Blueberry Toast at Soho Theatre
All is not as it seems in suburbia in Mary Laws’ intriguing and unusual play Blueberry Toast, directed by Steve Marmion. Combining biting and outrageous humour with surprising violence, the piece presents an entertainingly quirky take on the theme of dual realities, revealing uncomfortable truths within the veneer of an orderly 1950s style American family life and the seething rage that can brew beneath repression.
Highlighting the plight of women in oppressive patriarchal environments, the unravelling of the good girl spouse has a Stepford Wives-turned-rebel vibe as the protagonist morphs from happy homemaker to angry psychopath, somewhat resembling the character of Jack in Kubrick’s The Shining.
Epitomised passive aggression gradually becomes murderous as the perky Barb (Gala Gordon) endures abusive behaviour from her sexist, cheating, mean and critical husband Walt (Gareth David-Lloyd). His refusing to eat the blueberry toast she made becomes the final straw, a catalyst that bursts the dam of Barb’s suppressed emotion and transforms her into a knife-wielding maniac.
Constant interruptions by their offspring (Matt Barkley, Adrianna Bertola) – who show their parents brief stagings and musical skits from a play they are rehearsing – add to the absurd, eccentric and surreal atmosphere of the work. That adults are representing children provides a subliminal comment on the unreality of their lifestyle of pretence.
With a clear feminist message – in conjunction with the common theme of society’s tendency to encourage conformity and conventionality, from which emerges passive aggression – this piece touches on a particularly American issue: the idea that a sometimes suffocating commercialisation dominates daily life, imposing its own order and tyranny, substituting delusional complacency for real feelings, all within the framework of a patriarchal corporate culture.
Artfully expressed via a well-coordinated production, Laws’ subject matter is smartly written. Creating a “Saturday morning” cartoon-like aura, the terrific set and sound effects present a scene of bland and pristine Truman Show style neatness that evolves into a blood-spattered nightmare – the safe and mundane transmute into Tarantino-esque carnage. Performances are excellent with subtly clever timing and perceptively hilarious portrayals.
Witty, fun, crazy, irreverent and searingly on point, Blueberry Toast is a thought-provoking must-see.
Photo: Helen Maybanks
Blueberry Toast is at Soho Theatre from 24th May until 30th June 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.