Exquisite food and drink at Cheesemakers’ experience in Stratford

MYSTERY, intrigue, curiousity - and, of course, exquisite food and drink - made for an extremely enjoyable and refreshingly alternative evening out at this Edinburgh Fringe sell-out experience.

Sunday, 16th December 2012, 4:00 pm

I say ‘experience’ because, although drama was a big part of the evening, it was not quite a play - and the gastronomic elements played an equally, if not, slightly more, important role that the performance.

Bringing audience members something completely different to a regular night out, Stand and Stare’s Guild of Cheesemakers’ Annual Tasting involves the tasting of three artisan cheeses from Paxton and Whitfield, three freshly-baked breads from the Knead It bakery in Stratford, two wines from Laithwaites and a brandy cider from the Somerset Distillery.

Interspersing all that pleasure (and oh, what pleasure) was a drama involving three characters (Edward Rapley, Nina Kirkwood and Kesty Morrison) - one of whom was also filling the role of sommelier for the evening. We also had delightful and atmospheric musical accompaniment on the cello by Saskia Portway and Jessica Macdonald. The story revolved around a special cheese that has the power to give the consumer the gift of eternal youth. What we, in the audience, were asked to debate, was whether it would be better for society to preserve or destroy the secret formula that can create this wondrous cheese.

The element of surprise and intrigue during the evening was both unsettling and exciting and the large, old and chilly candlelit room in which we were sat provided the perfect setting for the drama.

But while the acting was passionate and convincing, the scenes did drag on in certain parts and for me, did not sit so comfortably with the tastings. I found the food and drink to be a distraction and, looking around the room, I could see I was not the only one who was left feeling a bit itchy during the drama and wanting to move on with the tastings.

Perhaps I was not quite ready to blend reality with fiction in such close quarters, as the tastings were very much what you might expect from a gourmet evening at a restaurant, with detailed explanations from the producers who provided helpful answers to queries about their products. It was all a bit confused.

But perhaps Stand and Stare should be applauded for this. On the whole, I found this evening, which was so unusual, to be extremely enjoyable and I would recommend other cheese, bread and wine-lovers to try to catch the show on tour.

Sundari Cleal