Review: Blood + Chocolate, York Theatre Royal

Blood + Chocolate
Blood + Chocolate
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SLUNG Low theatre company has found something of a magic formula. Now it’s all about refining to get it somewhere near perfect.

Blood + Chocolate isn’t quite there, but it’s a big step along the way.

The Leeds-based company has been creating its spectacular “theatre without walls” for a few years now, but this is the first time it has done so on such a large scale. Joining forces with York Theatre Royal and the drivers behind Blood + Chocolate, Pilot Theatre Company, Slung Low director Alan Lane has marshalled some serious resources to turn vast parts of the city of York into a theatrical playground.

Starting out at York Theatre Royal, the vast De Grey Rooms provide a canvas on to which the actors we will meet are screened in enormous scale. The audience is given headphones through which we hear the actors’ speech – a neat trick the company has really made its own – before being led through the city, pausing at various stunning locations to watch the action played out. The play tells the story of the York soldiers who went to fight at the front in the First World War and the women they left behind.

The story centres around the city’s decision to send every York soldier a tin of chocolates from home, but the confectionary is a symbol with which to tell the story of the city’s people.

Written by Mike Kenny, this is story-telling on an incredibly economical scale. It is often moving, Kenny tugging at the heart strings with a sparse script. As in any Slung Low production, however, the script is a single element, much of the spectacle coming from the way the audience is led around the city. As you move around, the scale of the work is impressive, but there is a problem. In the past Slung Low has done similar work on a more manageable scale. The creators of the piece were able to exercise greater control. When the formula is blown up so large, it is nigh-on impossible to keep a tight hold. It means the world outside the headphones encroaches more often than in previous Slung Low shows.

It’s difficult to stay rooted in the past when you are passing a hen party outside a Vodafone store. Finishing at Clifford’s Tower, with a stunningly lit centrepiece, the outside world can be kept at bay and the power of the piece really works.

To Oct 20.