It takes an actor of rare skill to make something watchable from the consumption of a cheese sandwich, the sliminess of its white bread coating apparent in every bite (suck?).

That actor is Matthew Kelly, who as a glum and gormless bakery worker of 45 years standing brings special delight to Richard Bean’s first play Toast, now revived as a prelude to a visit to New York and the Brits Off Broadway Festival.

His character, Nellie, is a mixer by job title, very far from what he is in another sense to the colleagues around him at the Hull bakery where monosyllabic responses – yes, no – greet most utterances.

In such a place worked Bean as an 18-year-old more than 40 years ago, the period perfectly caught in this gripping two-hour play.

Bean is best known these days for the hit comedy One Man, Two Guvnors, whose unlikely characters stand in stark contrast to the real-life figures observable here.

The action all takes place beneath harsh fluorescent lights in the workers’ mess room, away from the oven whose constant throbbing can be heard in the distance.

Our first encounter on this Sunday afternoon bakery shift is with the chargehand Blakey (Steve Nicolson), determined to meet the production target laid down by his absent bosses.

His team of six trickle in, one by one, including shop steward Colin (Will Barton) whose camp manner leads the Jack-the-lad Peter (Matt Sutton) to brand him homosexual.

Old Cecil (Simon Greenall), a former serviceman, is neatly drawn; likewise the dim ex-trawlerman Dezzie (Kieran Knowles) with his comic joy over his home’s newly installed bathroom.

Student recruit Lance (John Wark) is a bit of a mystery, the unravelling of which keeps us watching.

Christopher Gray 4/5