Cheese - A Play

Rozie Apps
Monday, 16th September 2013

A fantastically insightful and quirky play exploring today's financial systems that will leave you bewildered, amazed and full of questions.

On Thursday evening I found myself on Oxford Street opposite the biggest Primark store in the country. To my left and right on both sides of this busy street are bright shop windows filled with clothes, shoes, jewelry and hundreds of items these stores are trying to sell you. It is therefore, the perfect setting to watch a play that shows the fall of a world we know, where 'cheese' goes from being in abundance to completely disappearing - this is no ordinary play.

Set in a disused office, you are immediately drawn into the storyline. We are taken upstairs by a lady explaining that Cheese will be performed in the old accounts office. We are met by a typical office, but with filing cabinets pushed to the walls to make seats, a table of complementary cheeses and a drinks bar. We can sit anywhere amongst the rows of office chairs, although this raises questions as they all have name badges on for employees of London Mortgage Company (LMC), whose office this used to be. But there seems to only be a handful of these employees here.

A leaflet tells us this is LMC's 'Final Days' party as the business is being sold, and throughout the play, the main character Joe, reminds audience members that their P45s need collecting and that the paintballing trip next month has been cancelled. It is very bewildering and confusing, but is it part of the play? 

The event's electricity is being sourced from local gyms and community centres, where modified exercise machines have been installed. These will be charging batteries to supply the performance with light. There are a few hiccups throughout the play where all the lights go out, but luckily an electrician is on hand.

As the play continues it is obvious that you will leave with a lot of questions. 

Filled with metaphors that depict the worries of today's world, Cheese explores the banking and financial crisis and the search for solutions to social, financial and environmental situations.

Joe and wife Freya live in an Emmental house, where cheese is in abundance. Thanks to Joe's friend Rube, he has a good job and life is going well. But their life of luxury begins to unravel when the cheese disappers.

Photo by Conrad Blakemore

In search of the missing cheese, Joe is taken on an adventure through cheese casinos, laboratories and factories, finding some scary answers.

Rube tries to entice Joe into a new project where animals worth 20 million cheese wheels are used as assets as part of a borrowing scheme, a casino offers to lend Joe chips against his Emmental house and a co-operative scheme established around a dam appears with a lot of turnips. All are examples of the quirky mirroring that gives a serious message through peculiar imagery. 

The acting is engaging and funny, with an hilarious depiction of a well-known TV chef and the occasional burst of improv that always gets a laugh. 

This is an extraordinary play with a very important message to tell. It is funny and intelligent, leaving you with many questions. And on top of that, there is a very clever twist that will leave you puzzled throughout and on your journey home.

Cheese [a play] is presented by fanSHEN, a theatre company that, 'help people imagine what they haven't thought of yet.' They promote social, environmental and financial sustain-agility which are embedded in the making-process. To learn more about fanSHEN visit www.fanshen.org.uk

Cheese is showing at Oxford Street 29-31 from September 10th until September 28th 2013.

To find out more about Cheese and to buy tickets visit www.fanshen.org.uk/current/cheese.html 

Further resources

When art turns suburban lawns into edible food parks

Using art to promote permaculture ethics - 'common senses' at MoMA

Arbosculpture; the artful science of tree shaping

Rozie Apps is assistant editor at Permaculture magazine. 

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