Set in the world of the Northern bread plant, where the men’s livelihood hangs on the rhythm of the bread machines; this is a bleak, dark comedy firmly rooted in reality. The characters are based on those Richard Bean met during his time working in a bread factory. The dialogue is often monosyllabic, bawdy and ripe. Within this is the deep under scoring of desperation and knowledge that the industry is changing and a mistake could see the end of the factory and the much needed pay packet.
Matthew Kelly delivers a towering performance as Nellie, his many periods of silence nuanced with so much emotion and detail. From counting his cigarettes, rationed by his wife, to enjoying the cheese from his sandwich; it is unsurprising he discards the bread.
The static canteen set (James Turner) with the overflowing bin where the men aim their tea bags, without success, is a stark masculine world. The desperation with which the men pull together to try and fix a mistake reflects the pressures that the changing industrial landscape had on the entire workforce.
A smaller, more intimate venue could bring out the oppressive emotional states of the characters more fully; this is a charged piece of writing that is about people, not action, and as a result it feels diluted and lost in the large space of the main house.
*** (3 Stars)