The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy

Capital E, Wellington

14/03/2010 - 21/03/2010

New Zealand International Arts Festival 2010

Production Details

Step into the magical theatre tent and take a journey with Cheeseboy

‘An exotic flight of whimsy and imagination’Cheeseboy is a happy lad until a meteor crashes into his planet reducing it to a bubbling fondue. Safe inside his little boat Cheeseboy sets off in search of his missing parents. Marooned on Earth Cheeseboy is soon discovered by travelling Gypsies. His relief at his discovery is tempered by the realisation of all he has lost. Inside the magical tent Cheeseboy’s extraordinary adventure is told by Stephen Sheehan to an original score by Quentin Grant. 

The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy uses puppetry, projection and ingeniously simple theatre to create a world that will delight audiences of all ages. 

Slingsby is one of Australia’s most exciting and imaginative theatre companies. Self-described story-gatherers, the Slingsby company produces exceptional theatre for young audiences and adults alike. 

Slingsby’s Artistic Director Andy Packer conceived the production and is a long time champion of children’s theatre that is both entertainingly and emotionally complex. Cheeseboy’s star is Stephen Sheehan as the storyteller.

This original play is by Finegan Kruckemeyer, who at only 28, has had 35 of his commissioned plays performed at over 22 major festivals in Australia, North America, Asia and Europe.

In 2009 The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy won the Australian Writers’ Guild Award for Best Children’s Play and was invited to the Imaginate Festival in Scotland, the Teatralia Festivale in Spain, Act 3 Festival in Singapore and the Egg Theatre in England. 

The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy is presented at the Festival with support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian Government.

WHERE: Capital E
WHEN: 14 March at 2:30pm & 6pm, 19 March at 6pm, 20,21 March at 2pm & 6pm.

WHERE: Riverstone Recreation Centre, Upper Hutt
WHEN: 10 March at 6pm 
– The Adelaide Review


Liked by children

Review by Lynn Freeman 18th Mar 2010

The Tragical Life Of Cheeseboy continues the very dark tradition of shows in this year’s Festival programme.

Given it’s for three year olds through to adults, I did wonder how the younger audience members would react to things like being asked if Cheeseboy, being made of cheese, was a cannibal if he went and ate cheese himself.

This was followed by an explanation that human beings who eat meat aren’t cannibals because it’s different meat.

While I didn’t especially like the show, partly because I never warmed to either the narrator or the story, some of the youngsters there just about clapped their hands off. And ultimately they are the audience that counts.
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A quirky, offbeat tale that works

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 17th Mar 2010

Whimsical and off-beat shows are becoming a common feature at this year’s International Arts Festival and The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy which opened this weekend at Capital E is no exception, the only difference being that it is a play for children.

The creation of Finegan Kruckemeyer and Andy Packer for children’s theatre company Slingsby from Adelaide, Cheeseboyis a quirky tale narrated by Stephen Sheehan with the assistance of Sam McMahon and Roland Partis.

Within a tent like structure set-up within Capital E, Sheehan and his team regale the audience with their story dressed in Victorian costumes from the front of the tent strewn with Victorian like bric-a-brac. This is his playground Sheehan tells the audience and from here he gently and rhythmically narrates how Cheesseboy, living on a planet of cheese, is the only survivor when the planet is hit by a meteor and turned into a fondue and how he then embarks on a series of adventures looking for his missing parents.

He lands on earth, on a beach, and spends his time making paper boats that he hopes will sail away to bring them back. He eventually gives up on this idea and with the aid of a couple of gypsies heads inland to the towns in search of his parents.

Using theatrical devices like film projections, finger puppets, magical suitcases, sandcastles and imaginative and evocative lighting, and aided by Quentin Grant’s rich and emotive soundscape Cheeseboy’s story slowly unfolds. The music and lighting work well. The lighting verges on the dark side of dim, and the devices have a certain captivating effect on the younger members of the audience. The writing has a certain lyricism about it.

But Sheehan’s laid back narrative style fails to gain any momentum or create any drawing power as a good storyteller should. One of the group has been quoted as saying the production is “soft, not in-your-face” which it certainly isn’t. That may well be why it appeals to its target market of younger viewers. The 14 year old accompanying this Reviewer said the Cheeseboy was a “cool” show, the coming-of-age story was intriguing and that the inventive effects greatly enhanced the story, which probably means the approach taken this production has worked.
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Whimsical and quaint but adults excluded

Review by John Smythe 14th Mar 2010

It’s a whimsical tale quaintly told in a Victorian* sideshow tent by a dapper gent called Slingsby Bethel (Stephen Sheehan) with his mute assistant Humph (Sam McMahon). Apparently it was passed down from exotic climes in Eastern Europe …

Cheeseboy is made of cheese and lives with his cheesy parents in a cheesy house on a cheesy planet, but when it becomes a fondu and catches fire, its his love of playing pirates, despite his parent’s disapproval, in a lightly tethered boat floating in space, that saves him.

He floats to earth and embarks on a quest to build a new home they can all live in, when his parents find him. In the process he stops the moon creating the tides that destroy his sand castles then, in the endless day that follows, teams up with an astronomer and astrologer in their gypsy caravan, melding their search for the moon with his for his parents.  

He also discovers that eating cheese (not cannibalistic when it’s a different kind of cheese, like humans eating different kinds of meat) allows him to fly, higher and higher …

Eventually the moon is recommissioned (on its usual month tenancy) but instead of finding his parents – who have in fact made it to another part of this planet – Cheeseboy grows up. He builds high-rises now, still hoping to house his family in one of his million assorted rooms … until a final feed of cheese sees him float to oblivion.

It’s not a spoiler to summarise the tale because it’s told in a quaint verbal style and illustrated in ingenious ways that may well inspire the creativity of its young audience. Boots on fingers, buckets of sand, suitcases containing lit-up models and storybook projections held on a napkin, a screen or gliding above on the tent-like canopy we sit within, all contribute to the experience.  

The performers require and acquire an attentive hush within which to delicately deliver their tale. Sheehan’s style is relaxed and replete with subtle cadences, although his singing voice is rather timid.

Just two things puzzle me. They separate the children from the adults, which is fair enough, then proceed to totally ignore all but youngsters on the floor and in the front row, despite claiming they – Slingsby (the production company) – make “captivating theatre pieces for young audiences and adults alike”. Yet they charge – or the Festival does – the adults nearly twice the child ticket price. 

It also carries an age recommendation of 9+ and I can’t see why (I’d read it to a 4 year-old), unless experience has told them younger children get restless, while the older group has learned to ‘behave’ in the theatre. My 12 year-old guest said it was OK but I felt singularly unengaged by both the content, which I objectively recognise as a rite of passage story, and the presentation.

Given the awards The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy has won in Australia, I think we can rest assured that our children are treated to a very high standard of much more interesting and relevant theatre throughout any given year. But maybe I say that because I felt excluded from this one.
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*Victorian as in the 19th century, not from the Australian state. (This show hails from Adelaide, South Australia.)


Michael Smythe March 14th, 2010

It was not me who reviewed this play - I live in Auckland. Someone else deserves the credit.

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