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Seize the Cheese | New Wimbledon Theatre Studio

The obscure sport of cheese rolling is not at first glance a natural subject for a musical. But with a few touching stories from competitors, a quest to find a lost cheese and a soundtrack which ranges from classic tearjerker to outright fever dream, the creators of Seize the Cheese have found a recipe for success.

With book and lyrics by Mike Stocks and music by Patrick Steed, Seize the Cheese launches us straight into the weird and wonderful world of cheese rolling and sets the scene for a truly bizarre experience as we are introduced to the Keeper of the Cheese (Cathy McManamon). This magical figure somewhat akin to a pantomime fairy also acts as a narrator and regular fourth wall breaker as she pauses, rewinds and fast forwards the action to keep the audience on track.

The Keeper explains that everyone competing in the cheese rolling contest has a story, a fear to overcome or a sadness to come to terms with, and the show gives the audience an insight into some of these stories.

Characters with stories to be told include Phil (James Dangerfield) who is afraid of everything but keeps showing up in an attempt to conquer his fear, Jake (Fed Zanni) and Susan (Judith Orelly) who are trying for a baby, Jasmine (Jodi Bird) who wants to get out from under the thumb of her overbearing mum Dorothy (Victoria Waddington), Ian (Daniel Lobo) who loves to invent wacky gadgets and Leila (Rosie Zeidler) and Arthur (Oliver Bullen), best friends who may just have wrecked it all by sleeping together.

There are strong performances throughout the cast, many of whom take on multiple roles during the show, but a comedic standout is Travis Wood, who has the audience in stitches as The Cheese. Victoria Waddington flips effortlessly between comedy and pathos as overprotective mum Dorothy, while Jodi Bird and Laura Buhagiar shine as a young couple ready to (as their song tells us) ‘Live Life To The Max’.

This is a show determined to make us cry and laugh in equal measure, zigzagging from cheese puns, slapstick and Blackadder-esque comic sequences to touching stories which are sure to resonate with viewers.

Seize the Cheese has some powerful emotional numbers, with Orelly and Zanni setting the tone right from the start with ‘Two Pink Lines’, while Zeidler’s magnificent ballad ‘Hold Me Some More’ and Orelly’s second-act number ‘Jake Is Powerful’ also get the tears flowing. But Steed’s score and Stocks’ lyrics can rouse us as well as move us, with earworm ‘Conquer the Fear’ repeating through the show and fever dream cabaret number ‘The Tears of a Cheese’ raising plenty of laughs. The music is performed by a live band consisting of Alex Courtney on bass guitar, Jacob Moseley on drums and composer Patrick Steed on keyboard, who are constantly visible at the back of the stage and never hit a wrong note, although some sound balance issues mean they can at times drown out the cast’s voices.

Recreating Gloucestershire cheese rolling in a theatre, much less on a budget, is no mean feat, but this is achieved by set designer Raphaella Philcox by means of swathes of green fabric to represent hills, represented by stunning choreography from Kiren Virdee in the action scenes. Lighting from Alex Froley is also used to clever effect, particularly in one scene in which the lights flash on and off as contestants Leila and Arthur rearrange themselves into different positions. The nature of the show stringing multiple plotlines together in a short space of time means that it can at times feel a little disjointed, and the overarching plotline needs some further development to fully tie everything together. But at this early stage in its journey, Seize the Cheese already shows great promise, and it will be exciting to see where the future takes it.

Wacky and fully aware of its own ridiculousness, Seize the Cheese is also a heartwarming show with a powerful message about chasing your dreams and facing your fears head on. This small but mighty show should seize our hearts just as its contestants seize the cheese.


Seize the Cheese runs at New Wimbledon Theatre until 11th November. For more information and tickets, follow the link here.


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