Friday, April 1, 2016

"Yes, I can hear you Clem Fandango"


TOAST OF LONDON is the latest in a long-line of comedic triumphs for Matt Berry, following star turns in GARTH MARENGHI'S DARKPLACE, SNUFF BOX, THE IT CROWD and HOUSE OF FOOLS.

THIS deliciously bonkers Channel 4 sitcom, written by Arthur Mathews and Matt Berry, charts the misadventures of middle-aged actor Steven Toast (Berry). The London-based thespian with a streak of white hair spends most of his time dealing with personal issues away from stage and screen, a situation not helped by his self-absorbent agent Jane Plough (Doon Mackichan), who relentlessly provides him with disastrous roles. Plough also gives Toast voice-over assignments with Scramble Studios in Soho - mimicking Berry's own lucrative side career - where he locks horns with sound engineers Danny Bear (Tim Downie) and Clem Fandango (Shazad Latif). Other recurring characters are Ed Howzer-Black (Robert Bathurst), Toast's flat-mate and one true friend; Colonel Blair Toast (Adrian Lukis), Steven's eccentric army veteran older brother who lost his hand in the Falklands; Ray "Bloody" Purchase (Harry Peacock), a rival actor; and Mrs Purchase (Tracy Ann Oberman), Ray's prostitute wife who even he has paid to have sex with, a woman who has an off and on affair with Toast himself.

Utilising Berry's outstanding musical talent - 'Take My Hand' from his third album Witchazel acts both as a theme tune and a comment on Blair's predicament - TOAST OF LONDON is a masterful absurdist comedy that is branching out from its tough time-slots. Bedfordshire-born Berry is a true original, his rich baritone voice and stoic demeanour making him perfect for a character in fine tune with colonial Olde England. Grumpy and woman-obsessed, Toast is always to the point, disliking extra-safe condoms because their thickness doesn't necessitate the additional effort, and struggling to attract Hollywood roles because he once said that Minnie Driver had a big face. The second and third series (screened in 2014 and 2015 respectively) build on this surreal foundation, adding famous faces such as Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme and Jon Hamm to the mix. The third stint is particularly entertaining, where Toast is reacquainted with Purchase's albino twin brother Bill, we encounter Bob Monkhouse's zombie wife, and a production of Twelfth Night cast entirely of dogs.

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