War, Hell, Blood and Chocolate

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There are an awful lot of really lovely images from this show.

So here goes: when I first heard about the show Blood + Chocolate, I didn’t want to do it.

Now, this isn’t a new phenomenon for me. It’s just the lizard brain going into overdrive protective mode whenever I’m presented with a project that I can’t quite wrap my head around. I just ignore the feeling and accumulate more facts and ideas from the people who know more of them, and eventually, I come around and start looking forward to it.

(Though I’m not entirely sure if that ever happened on this show. But that’s ok. Read on.)

The main selling point I was presented with, from several fronts, was that this show was massive. A 200-strong cast and crew, never mind the 80 piece community choir, it was on a scale unlike many of us had ever worked on. To say I was wary was an understatement. This terrified me.

However, as I say, I get these feelings every now and again. I’m used to feeling uncomfortable and uncertain, and trusting the process, a faith borne from experience.

I had faith in my colleagues. “We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again,” I’d absolutely no doubt… on a conscious, deliberate level.

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The brass band mimed to music I’d written. The audience appeared utterly convinced they were live, by all accounts. 

The choir’s music was the first to be committed to stone – by necessity because of the way that recording sessions and rehearsal schedules had to be plotted. The community choir were bold and brilliant, and though many couldn’t read the notes, their commitment showed through in the recordings and the live show and I was pleasantly surprised. No small feat, considering the amount of music I threw at them. I credit the ever-talented Craig the MD with wrangling that feisty bunch.

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The soundtrack album will be out around the end of year.

Feels uncomfortable, doesn’t it, reading the underscript to that last photo. And if we get right down to the guts of it, that’s how I felt for a decent proportion of the time working on this project. A little bit icky. That I was profiting from what was a most senseless, destructive, violent loss of life: World War I. That there was a sense of ‘bandwagonnery’ (though the centenary doesn’t start officially until next year) and any momentary joy I may have felt at having an 80-strong choir singing my tunes, or any of the community cast beautifully choreographed to my sound design, was immediately followed by gut-churning guilt.

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Seriously. This show was mind-bogglingly beautiful.

The show broke no ground thematically. It told us nothing new. Perhaps that’s because there’s nothing new to tell: War is Hell, and it leaves no survivors. By presenting some of these well-known, personal stories in such a poetic light, without the pressure of saying what’s right or wrong, of telling us what we’ve always known – the cliche of the rushed weddings, the mother who loses her sons, the soldier who’s shot at the moment of peace… presented there in front of us in the streets of today’s York, gives us the viscerality without the gore (the show was suitable for 12 year olds) and brings these stories freshly at us, face to face, as if heard for the first time. That was my hope, anyway.

The technical frustrations of the process, many though they were, pale in comparison to the ridiculous, mammoth effort that went into putting the beast of a show on its feet. If it were not for seeing this on a regular basis throughout the process, I may have passed the composing baton along to someone more steely-stomached. Looking back, if I was asked to do it again, I’d say no.

Ah, who am I kidding, that’s crap. I’d probably say yes every time – I mean, just look at it.