Now usually this blog is restricted to books and Hilda Street updates however I’m making an exception today. Last night thanks to the fantastic York Cocoa House I was invited to see the final dress rehearsal of Blood + Chocolate.
Blood + Chocolate is a play with a difference. Rather than being a static performance in a normal theatre it’s a ‘promenade’ performance, which is basically a posh term for walking around. The description on the Theatre Royal website states ‘this production will offer audiences theatre on an epic, cinematic scale’. Now those of you who know me and my incredibly limited cinema experience know that I usually avoid things described as epic due to it normally just being a code word for long. However in this instance I’m incredibly glad I put that to one side. The only way to describe this performance (play doesn’t do it justice) is stunning.
The inspiration for the writing came from the fact that at Christmas in 1914 the Lord Mayor of York sent out a box of chocolates made by Rowntrees to every York citizen who was fighting. Obviously York is famous for its chocolate making heritage, not only Rowntree’s and Terry’s but both Cadbury and Fry also completed their apprenticeships here so York was the perfect setting for a play inspired by the stories and letters that were sent from the men and women in York during the war.
Starting at Exhibition Square you are given headphones to wear as you watch a mixture of filmed scenes being projected onto the De Grey Rooms and actors speaking from windows. From here you are led by wardens, through cheering crowds towards the Minster where soldiers are leaving for battle. The Guildhall is next where women are packing chocolate, then you are taken via Parliament street as a war zone, before ending at Cliffords Tower. Throughout you get the feeling that you are listening into private conversations between soldiers, workers and families.
York is obviously known for its history and its lovely buildings. However this play showed them all in a new light and was the perfect backdrop for the sometimes funny and always moving stories of those who went to war. We were lucky with the weather as the whole performance is outside, and there is a lot of standing however it was completely worth it. There was apparently over 200 actors playing parts as soldiers, conscientious objectors, chocolate workers, nurses, mothers and children yet the whole thing ran smoothly from start to finish. The logistics behind the performance must have been a nightmare but all worked perfectly.
I would recommend this play to anyone, however sadly for those who haven’t yet got tickets I believe it is sold out. It was truly a unique York experience and complemented perfectly by a cup of hot chocolate at half time courtesy of York Cocoa House.