The Immersive theatre adventure of the week this week led to a half abandoned office building on Oxford Street for the funny, thought-provoking, and decidedly clever “Cheese [ a play ]” by Nikki Schreiber.
The play is described as:
Joe and Freya have it all: the job, the car, the house made of Emmental in an up-and-coming part of town. Sure, they have the odd disagreement over the best way to make fondue – but they’re living the dream, more or less.
Then one morning, the cheese runs out. There’s no explanation and someone seems to have changed the rules overnight. So Joe sets off on a journey through a labyrinth of cheese hole tunnels to investigate; he finds unexpected laboratories, factories, casinos – and some worrying clues that he had more to do with the cheese disappearance than he originally thought.
Cheese is a humourous adventure through the twists and turns of an absurdist system which is too big to fail; a political comedy about the end of the world as we knew it, and what happens next…
The evening starts off as a play that office worker Freya (Rachel Donovan) has written, with all props brilliantly made out of office supplies. Initially, it is as you would expect from an amateur production from office workers– awkward, comical, and with a few mishaps in production along the way. There is a lot to laugh at here, but it’s also a very clear way of setting the scene and quick backstory for the financial meltdown – the absence of the ‘cheese.’
As the subject matter gets more serious, so does the acting. The actors slip flawlessly from their purposeful stiff pantomime into a more genuine, meaningful presentation as we get to the crux of the financial crises. Jon Foster’s Joe devolves wonderfully – initially shown with the comical loosening of a tie- but soon he is disheveled, sweaty, and horrified in how his role has cast harm onto others.
Rachel Donovan and Jamie Zubairi do well as opposing forces competing for Joe’s loyalty and ‘investment’ (financial and emotional), and present a paradox of questions for good vs evil arguments regarding all types of businesses.
This is interesting theatre, made even more so by the absolute genius use of office supplies and furniture to cleverly create all settings and props needed. The use of rubber bands for fondue is genuinely hilarious, as are the tomatoes on the vine. The lighting is shockingly effective- the play is actually taking place in an old office building, but the range of lighting options they have come up with is wonderfully impressive. There is something rather interesting with the dimming of the lights in the last scene while the giant bright PRIMARK lettering across the street glows through the windows. Capitalism and dangerous businesses are all around, folks.
Cheese has a very important message portrayed in an easy to follow dialogue with lots of humour added in. The running time felt a little bit long at times in the turnip patch (no, really), but this is good stuff. And if you get a little hungry for cheese along the way, fret not – you can buy BabyBells at the bar. Genius.
Go see it until September 28th, and buy tickets here.
You can also watch the trailer here.
PS – fanSHEN, the company behind this production has a really interesting ethos. ” fanSHEN works through Theatre to help people imagine what they haven’t thought of yet. Our work promotes ideas of environment, social and financial sustain-agility and these ideas are embedded in the making process.” Not only do they power the electric for the performance from energy generated at local gyms (!) they also offer a series of interesting looking talks relating to the performance! Wow!
Check them out on twitter @fanshentheatre