THIS week, the York Cocoa House, in Blake Street, York, will become a temporary theatre in the evenings when the audience will be “hit by the gorgeous smell of chocolate and a cacophony of chocolate-making sounds”.
As part of the York Festival Of Ideas 2013, Pilot Theatre, York Theatre Royal, Script Yorkshire’s York branch and the University of York’s department of theatre, film and television are collaborating on Clocking In, a new documentary play taken from real-life stories that celebrate the chocolate-making industry in York.
The hour-long piece will be performed by University of York students together with community actors at the York Cocoa House from tomorrow until Saturday at 7pm and 8.30pm each evening. The audience capacity is restricted to 30 per show and tickets are close to selling out already.
“Each audience will meet at the Theatre Royal and make their way to the Cocoa House, where they will be taken on a journey by chocolate workers through the joy and camaraderie, but sadness and sense of loss too in York’s chocolate factory life,” says director Katie Posner.
All this while enjoying a hot chocolate and a nibble of chocolate in the intimate café setting, where the audience will be transported inside York’s chocolate factories to explore working in York’s biggest industry.
From the production line to the boardroom, the documentary play uses new interviews to celebrate the hidden stories of York’s chocolate past and present.
This material was edited by Dr Tom Cantrell, the verbatim theatre specialist in the university’s department of theatre, film and television, from nearly 50 interviews with Rowntree and Terry’s workers carried out by undergraduate students on the writing, directing and performance course and York writers from Script Yorkshire.
The play is built around the memories and words of former Rowntree employee and chocolate industry memorabilia collector Joe Dickinson, played by Paul Osborne, supported by other chocolate workers’ stories to compile a living archive of the chocolate chunk of York’s social history.
“It all started from last summer’s York Mystery Plays, when Tom was playing Judas and I was an assistant director, and we met up and talked about the possibility of Pilot collaborating with the university,” says Katie, Pilot’s associate director.
“Tom was intersted in the possibilities arising from this autumn’s Blood And Chocolate community theatre project and I always wanted to do a new play that celebrated York’s chocolate past. Clocking In is the result.”
Rehearsing in the York Cocoa House amid the chocolate aromas as darkness descends has been a delight, says Katie, who equally has enjoyed working with assistant director Sarah Cotterill, stage manager Hannah Schembri and assistant stage manager Samantha Leong, all from the University of York.
“Having this collaborative way of working is really important to help them with their professional career ambitions,” she believes.
• Tickets can be booked at York Cocoa House, at pilot-theatre.com or by phoning 01904 635 755. If you miss out, the play will be streamed live by Pilot Theatre at pilot-live.com.
Clocking In forms part of the wider Blood And Chocolate project, which will take to the streets of York with a cast of 200 from October 3 to 20. More information can be found at pilot-theatre.com