Hello! Thank you for your interest in our show Toast. I’m Liz, the writer of Toast.
The amazing, talented artists who have made this show with me – the Toasties – have worked hard to bring numerous important, delicate subjects and experiences to the stage in a way that’s engaging, entertaining, and not too heavy-handed. Death, grief, addiction, memory, anxiety, belonging, suicidal ideation, the fear of rejection – these all come up at various points, with varying levels of detail.
There is also music, and laughter, and family, and it is filled to the brim with love. We promise.
But we understand if any of the above has you feeling uncertain about whether Toast is right for you. We want to provide the below information to help you decide, or so you can feel nice and prepared before you do join us.
The below is basically a detailed plot synopsis. Please bear that in mind before you continue reading. You might like to ask a trusted person to read it for you and then you can ask them questions. At any rate, here be spoilers!
Toast is the story of sisters Candice (age 41), Alex (39) and Sydney (22). It is set in the garage of their family home.
In the opening scene of the play, we see each sister learn their mother has died suddenly of a stroke. Her death is not depicted or detailed, but it is a major part of the story, as is the grief each sister feels.
Alex is a recovering alcoholic and 18 days sober when her mother dies. Her addiction and recovery is frequently brought up in the show. She discusses things like being given her first drink by their late father when she was 16, battling cravings by chewing gum, and references how many days of sobriety has. Her struggles with addiction and her recovery is handled realistically and with compassion, especially by the actor who plays Alex, the extraordinary Amy Mathews.
Candice is executor of their mother’s will and puts their childhood home on the market, packing everything up. Her pragmatic approach offends Alex, who has an outburst at the real estate agent Candice brings in, Gwen (also 22). In this moment and others, the characters say things like “I’m not going to fall off the wagon just because our mother’s dead!” and “She’s dead, Alex! She doesn’t need the house anymore!” They talk frankly of their mother’s death, as if they are a bit detached from it within the surreal grief they feel, but they are never callous.
Sydney was adopted into the family when she was 10. In one scene, she tells Gwen that her birth mother died when she was little. We later learn she doesn’t remember her, even if she pretends to. Sydney makes it clear her childhood wasn’t unhappy, and that she has fond memories of being welcomed into the family by her adoptive sisters. The circumstances that led to Sydney being in foster care are never referenced. During the play, Sydney worries she’ll get left behind now that both her adoptive parents are dead, and her sisters won’t want her anymore. It’s made clear these fears are baseless and Sydney just needs to hear some reassurance from her sisters.
Sydney is gay and secretly in love with her best friend, Elise. She is very comfortable in her sexuality and her identity is not a source of conflict in the show. Her sisters are aware she’s gay and entirely supportive in their own awkward, big-sister ways.
Left to pack up the house one night by herself, Candice decides she’s had enough and goes out to get drunk. When she returns to the house Alex is there, nervous to be around a drunk person. She stays when she realises Candice could use the company, and when Candice lets slip she drove to the house while drunk, Alex gently tries to confiscate her keys so she can drive her home. They end up playfighting, and the inebriated Candice takes two beers out of the fridge and offers one to Alex so they can keep having a fun night together. Alex tells Candice to “go to hell” and leaves.
When the house is sold quickly and Sydney tries to be positive about the news, Alex lashes out at her, saying the loss of their mother and their house doesn’t mean as much to her because being adopted means it wasn’t really hers to begin with.
Horrified at her actions, Alex relapses on her 43rd day of sobriety. We see her at an AA meeting telling the group what has happened, and hear her describe herself as “a piece of shit”. She talks about her issues with anger and expresses a deep self-hatred. She admits to hurting her sister and doesn’t try to excuse her behaviour. Alex is clearly struggling with her grief for her mother.
Alex returns to the garage of the house and finds it totally empty except for a couple of wooden chairs. She gets the axe from the shed and uses it to destroy one of the chairs. Candice arrives having heard the noise; we learn Candice has left her distant husband and has been secretly living in the house since their mother’s funeral.
Candice tells Alex she considered suicide on the day their mother died, tempted to drive off a freeway bridge where road works were happening while driving to the hospital. She reveals she “would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it before” but “it never felt so easy until then”. The word “suicide” is not spoken and it is strongly implied that Candice’s mental health has improved in the weeks since, that she has gained a sense of empowerment over leaving her husband and starting fresh with an optimistic outlook. The topic of suicide is handled both delicately and frankly, and Candice’s admission marks a turning point for Alex’s perception of, and investment in, her sister’s life. Candice is played by Alison van Reeken, a remarkable and experienced actor who brings a great deal of empathy to all aspects of Candice’s story.
Alex admits to disowning Sydney, and confides to Candice she fears she is turning into their cold, absent father, and that she quit drinking in an attempt to show up for the people she loves. Bonded by their honesty, Alex coaches Candice to using the axe on another one of the chairs, who is delighted to wreak a little havoc of her own.
Sydney arrives in the garage with a bloody nose and blood all down the front of her shirt. Shocked, the sisters worry someone has attacked her. Sydney tells them she has been sleeping with Elise since the funeral, but that Elise, who is early in her journey of self-discovery, requested they keep their new relationship quiet and take things slow. But now Elise’s brother has accidentally found them having sex, and in the ensuing chaos, Sydney falls and hits her face on the coffee table (hence all the blood). When she hears Elise tell her brother “We’re just friends”, Sydney realises her feelings aren’t reciprocated in the way she would like, and leaves. The injury Sydney experiences is accidental, and it’s clear Elise’s brother was more grossed out by seeing his sister half-naked than he was bothered by her being queer.
Sydney is played by Anna Lindstedt, a charming and sensitive performer who is herself queer; Toast is a rare example of a queer character written by a queer writer played by a queer actor. Authenticity in queer storytelling is really important to all the Toasties, and we’ve put a lot of time and energy into lovingly making sure Syd’s story is an empowering and positive one for our queer friends in the audience.
To comfort a heartbroken Sydney, Alex tells her she is “the easiest person in the world to love”, and Candice tells her she is proud of her for trying to make things work with Elise. Candice also says that she and Alex remember life before Sydney joined their family, and that their lives have gotten much better since.
Alex is forced to reveal she has relapsed, and is now on day 4 of sobriety. Candice and Sydney reassure her that “tomorrow, it will be five days”, and that they will keep counting the days with her as long as she needs. Alex describes herself as being “annoyed” at having to start over and the sisters leave it at that. Relapsing is a very common experience during recovery and Alex’s relapse is not depicted with any judgement.
Now we have finally seen the three sisters as a strong little family all of its own, Alex and Candice decide it’s Sydney’s turn to destroy a chair. They give her the axe and get her set up, and the lights fade to black with her sisters cheering her on. We don’t actually see or hear Sydney hit the chair. Sorry, Sydney.