Stand & Stare Theatre Company create immersive theatre, which is like gold dust for me at the Fringe. Whilst some may consider the involvement of the crowd in a show a cop-out (the theatrical equivalent of a build your own salad bar) I consider it nothing short of the icing on the cake of a great piece of modern theatre. So Guild Of Cheesemakers could never disappoint - a wine, cheese, and bread tasting that also included an audience-participation show.
The first point - and probably the most pressing one for you readers who have taken in the above synopsis - is that the tasting includes three sublime examples of all three fields (the Anster cheese, Apple Brandy, and Coarse Rye were probably the finest moments in the selection) and will cause you to go on a delicatessen spree the following day a fact that, considering the price of the tickets, may not be a great comfort to those on a shoestring. With the inclusion of experts in all three fields talking about the things they love and also introducing you to the tastings themselves, their passion steams off them at every moment. It seems almost tertiary that, between these sessions of what makes sourdough bread and how cheese is made, there is a plot, and a play, and performances, and a story about cheese that has shocking similarities to a dairy-influenced rewrite of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. And then we are asked: do we want to have the secret to immortality or not? Suddenly the cheese is just a vessel for a bigger question, and interesting and tense responses are drawn from the crowds.
Although the show certainly feels like a minor point in the whole, the play itself is well lit, acted, and beautifully constructed. Although at times the need for exposition and moments of fantasy lead to some cheesy (excuse the pun) performances, the moments of improvisation prove the heart and skill of the actors and the dimensions to their characters, with special praise going to the wonderful Beadle played by Nina Kirkwood. When it comes to bringing the audience in, we are so charmed and intrigued that everybody speaks out, and people even ask questions about the food on offer. It is a show that promotes our enquiries and that makes us happy to be involved, which is such a rarity for an audience participation show.