We are welcomed into the all-too-perfect linoleum suburban kitchen of Walt (Gareth David-Lloyd) and Barb (Gala Gordon), with their two darling children: Jack and (you guessed it) Jill. Distanced not only by this sterile perfection, but also the stylised choreography of every action and every word, the play creates a discomfort from the off.
Taylor Swift’s ‘Look What You Made Me do’ opens this play, and runs through Blueberry Toast as a perfect representation of it- it comes from a controversial woman, pinioned by society’s opinions and it is about being controlled by others. It is a normal Sunday morning and Barb insists on making Walt breakfast. What would he like? Blueberry Toast- Blueberry Toast? Yes, Blueberry Toast. Once given to him, however, Walt decides this is not what he wants, but Barb insists he must eat it and their confrontation continues, with every toast-fuelled battle becoming more and more violent and shocking.
The entire play is structured by four acts that are vigorously performed by Jack and Jill at intervals as they storm the stage from where they have been rehearsing upstairs. This provides some much-needed relief from the strained and alienating speech of their parents. These moments are all entirely different from one another and at once both hilarious and horrific.
Blueberry Toast is about the emotions kept under wraps. It’s about how these suppressed emotions become projected onto small and minute things and then amplified by them: toast becomes more than toast; the rejection, insecurity and pain reflected onto the piece of hard bread become diffracted and mutated, transforming into a dangerous force.
Mary Laws is trying to show that words, in and of themselves, have a power. Walt is a poetry teacher, but he doesn’t like poetry. Barb extenuates every word she speaks, performing it deliberately and out to the audience: perhaps searching for a connection that her marriage has not provided.
Laws is exploring an important and powerful idea in Blueberry Toast: how it’s better to air things in the open than give a superficial idea of perfection to fool other people and yourself. However, a failure of this play is that it never gives you a convincing illusion of perfection to dissect. Something is wrong from the beginning and because something is always wrong the play lacks a satisfying progression. The characters fail to progress significantly as well and the ending becomes, as a result, confusing and farcical rather than effective and touching.
Blueberry Toast is playing at the Soho Theatre until 30 June
Photo: Helen Maybanks