Toast written by Liz Newell and directed by Emily McLean, follows three sisters as they grapple with the sudden death of their mother. In the face of grief, they are forced to address their own barriers, while unresolved feelings towards their parents’ also bubble to the surface.
Candice (Alison van Reekan) the eldest sister is in a marriage breakdown, Alex (Amy Mathews) the middle sister is newly sober and adopted youngest sister Sydney (Sam Nerida) is in the midst of coming out. Each sister delivers a heartfelt and believable performance, as they accurately emulate the mix of emotions that arrive not just with grief but also the individual issue their character is dealing with.
The only other character, represented on stage, is Gwen (Teresa Jakovich) a 22-year-old real estate agent who is enlisted to sell the home by Candice. Gwen appears in just a handful of scenes and is used as a point of conflict for the sisters, with Candice wanting to sell the house and Alex wanting to keep it. As Gwen is currently written, she feels underutilised and could be represented off-stage entirely, however she does have capacity as a character to add more to the piece if explored further.
Most of the show is set in the garage of the sisters’ deceased parents’ home as they work through the items their mum has kept over the years. Sally Phipps has created a literal box on stage to represent the garage, which sits far back enough to leave room for the actors to use the remaining stage for scenes outside the home. Laying eyes on the set for the first time is overwhelming as the garage is full of random items, the typical dumping ground of stuff most people have. As the show progresses the space becomes progressively emptier perhaps not just representing what is physically removed by the sisters but also the clarity the sisters are working towards with each other.
Sam Nerida and Anna Lindstedt. Photography by Daniel J Grant.
With such universal topics, it’s likely most audience members can relate to something within Toast. However, Liz’s writing does not rely on this relatability to evoke emotion from the audience. It was evident from the gasps in some moments and laughter in others, how invested the audience became in this family.
The show ends with just enough closure to settle the audience but does not resolve everything; leaving us with a gentle reminder that these issues are complex, messy, but are ultimately human.
Toast is presented in partnership between Black Swan State Theatre Company and The Blue Room Theatre. It runs from now to May 15.
A special credit must be given to Sam Nerida for stepping into the role of Sydney at the last minute for Anna Lindstedt who suffered an injury, and Teresa Jakovich who moved into the role of Gwen for Sam.