Theatre Review: Blood + Chocolate - York City Centre ✭✭✭✭✭

Blood + Chocolate 
Photo by Allan Harris
York City Centre
Review by James Eaglesfield

Very rarely are you privileged to attend a production that is more than simply “just another show”, no matter how good that show may be. Theatre-goers in York, or at least the lucky ones to have snapped up a golden ticket, are currently experiencing a production that is elevated in to an epic event and one of those “I was there” moments” as Blood + Chocolate flows through the city courtesy of York Theatre Royal, Pilot Theatre and Slung Low.

The term theatre-goers seems less than apt on this occasion as, beyond picking up their tickets at the theatre Box Office, audience members will not set foot in a theatre or even an auditorium as they are taken on a tour around York, with the help of AV projections, headsets transmitting directly in to their ears, and a superb cast of hundreds.

Luke Adamson as George and Anthony Harrison as Fred 
Photo by James Drury
Blood + Chocolate takes us back to the dark days of the First World War, as the men of York head off to do battle leaving the women to keep the chocolate factories running in their absence and pick up the broken pieces on their return. So what better set to have than the city itself? The 300 audience members are expertly ushered from one point to another as the action sweeps from one side of the city to the other, with action all around, as they hear all the speech through headphones so even the tiniest whisper being uttered a hundred metres away can be heard.

The positivity and perceived nobility of war, celebrated at first, gives way to grim reality and death as the tale, written by Mike Kenny, unfolds. Amongst it all there are individual stories – stories of love, of morality and of duty. All of them fantastically played, but given new life and a sense of connection with reality as they are played out in locations ranging from the Mansion House to Clifford’s Tower. There are some poignant heartbreaking scenes, some fantastic set pieces and some moments of pure artistic genius. The combination of professional actors working alongside a brilliant community cast is as sweet as chocolate itself.

But the star of the show is the city, the scale and ambition of the project and its successful delivery.
Passers-by stand by, bemused by the array of projections, smoke affects and the throng of followers. In some ways the audience become part of the show, a strange procession through the streets of a city that is still welcoming the public – which, on press night, included the normal array of Friday night revellers featuring at least two men in dresses; a lovely juxtaposition against the early 1900’s costumes and soldier uniforms.

Photo by Dave Lee
York is gaining a reputation of being able to stage hugely dramatic, large scale productions – just take a look at last year’s Mystery Plays – and should be extremely proud of this amazing event taking place within its walls. An event that moved me emotionally in a way I have never experienced sat in a theatre.

Tickets for the full run have sold out, and getting your hands on one may be harder than gaining entry to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. But for those that do have a precious ticket, they are assured of an experience that will stay with them for a very long time.

Five stars ✭✭✭✭✭

Blood + Chocolate continues until 20 October 2013