Seize the Cheese


Bizarre storylines for musicals are hardly new.  W.S.Gilbert struggled on one about a magic lozenge; more successfully The Little Shop of Horrors, referenced in the programme notes for this production, revolved around a man-eating plant.

The premise for this production is straightforward: how the annual cheese-rolling contest affects the lives of the residents of a Gloucestershire village.

So here we have a series of relatable dilemmas: the would-be loving couple stuck in the friend zone; the infertile couple desperate for a baby; the coward who needs to confront his fears in public; the lesbians who have yet to come out.

The leap off the cliff to follow the cheese is supposedly the resolution to these personal arcs because of the supposed role of cheese as a fertility symbol and the courage needed to make a dangerous jump.  The principal problem is that this framing device is thin and exhausted by the end of the first act if not before.  Where is the suspense where the dramatic tension?  We saw the cheese rolling in the second scene.

It is well staged, however, with excellent dancing, particularly by the two green-bedecked spirits of the countryside Rachel Sheridan and Travis Wood who also comes on as the spirit of the cheese in an outstandingly grotesque performance which is one of the memorable scenes of the show.

Another bright note, when gentle mockery makes the leap into actual comedy, comes with the appearance of the foul-mouthed first aiders who give a hilarious commentary on the injured.  The cheese worshippers, ‘Mortified Representative Villagers’, are also genuinely funny, but there is too little fun, too much clunky storyline here.

The country circus is presided over by Cathy McManamon as ‘The Keeper of the Cheese’, a shambolic, gaily dressed matriarch who describes herself as an ‘ancient old hippie who believes in any old claptrap.’  It is her job to chivvy along the action or sometimes to announce a flashback – ‘three months earlier…’ You don’t get a lot of flashbacks in musicals; I don’t think this is going to set a trend for them.

At its best, Seize the Cheese is fabulously silly with its over-inflated premise and crazy rhymes such as ‘reason’ with ‘pass the cheese on.’  The cast is bursting with enthusiasm, the music and lyrics do the job but most of the cheese-pocalypse left me cold.