October 17, 2013 by talkaboutyork
Last night I went to watch a theatre experience called Blood + Chocolate (watch the video in the link to see why you might get goose bumps). It was a drama telling the story of the people of York during World War 1 and particularly the role that chocolate played in keeping morale high among the troops. What made this an unusual ‘theatre’ experience was that it wasn’t in a theatre. It spanned the city of York.
Audience members were given headsets. Guides scattered among the crowd pointed with torches to show you were to look or where to walk. The tale unfolded against the backdrop of major York landmarks – the De Grey rooms, the Minster, down Stonegate, St Helen’s square and the Mansion House, along Parliament street, into St Saviourgate Church, past the Jorvik before culminating at Clifford’s Tower. A huge cast of people danced and skipped and waved flags among us so that we felt part of group of soldiers marching off to war, while poignant music played through our headsets. At times it was so beautiful and surreal I was moved to tears – like seeing angels with giant wings silently holding back traffic as though saying: Do not interrupt these people who are remembering fallen soldiers.
There were other nice touches – like a chance to stop for a rest in St Saviourgate Church with a mug of hot chocolate (nicely adding to the chocolate theme) while listening to beautiful singing, and a small commemorative gift tin containing chocolates, like those the soldiers might have received.
It wasn’t all good. Although it was a brilliant production(moving that many people through the streets of York and keeping it flowing is no mean feat), there wasn’t much of a plot. It was also difficult to remember which character was which as they tended to be far away, making them hard to recognise. It all got a bit melodramatic and tragic at the end. But then, I guess WW1 was tragic and isn’t likely to incur belly laughs.
The performance has stayed with me. Images keep springing to mind as I go about my morning. So in that regard it was a success. Most importantly, it conveyed a strong message to remember the war dead (particularly with Remembrance Day coming up) and a reminder to be a better person every day in little ways – like smiling at a stranger or helping someone in need or simply being kind. After all, those young men died for mankind.
Man. Kind. When you break that word apart, it’s clear how we should behave.
Images of the performance here