A post about ‘Dash Dash Dash’, a series of shows I wrote and directed in 2010
Further to the material on the releasing of liquids in the previous post I am appending here a short technical monograph.
Blood in the performing arts is always the wrong colour. It’s never dark enough. The benchmark for film blood used to be a concoction known as Kensington Gore. (This is a pun: Kensington Gore is the name of a number of connected streets that run around the Royal Albert Hall in Kensington, adjacent to Hyde Park on its south side.)
I am indebted to tvtropes and Everything2 for locating an original recipe:
“… this is a name for fake blood, especially the sticky, edible sort in old British horror films. Everything2 gives the recipe as:
• 2 cups of corn syrup (for viscosity and color)
• 1 cup of water (for balancing viscosity)
• 10 table spoons of corn (maize) flour (for making the blood less translucent)
• 10 tea spoons red food coloring (for color)
• 10 drops blue food coloring (for color)
• A few drops concentrated mint (for taste – optional)
The blood is sticky, thick and bright red (crimson in fact). The original Kensington Gore was a specific brand of proprietary stage blood manufactured by retired pharmacist John Tynegate in the ’60s and ’70s. It can be seen in a lot of old horror films, especially the Hammer Horror series.”
While the ingredients above are fairly standard, it’s all in the mix. The old school Gore had a letter box hue that was far too bright and light. The recipe does stress viscosity, however – a crucial but entirely controllable consideration. This is where the corn syrup (treacle is easier to get in the UK) comes in. The value of corn flour is debatable – it can make the mix irreversibly lumpy. Translucency can be countered with careful and cautious administration of food colouring. In film, it should be noted, the blood can be refreshed between takes. In live performance one is looking for an effect that does not dissipate as time passes.
In the Dash Dash Dash array five out of the six shows featured gratuitous bloodshed:
• In the Bosom of Roy: when Angela spits it, possibly consumptively, in Alex’s face, twice.
• The Flutters: when Grace returns from murdering the man who had been cutting to Roy in his place of work it emerges that she has shagged the culprit and then cut his cock off. She carries the detached penis in a neat, penis-sized package and her chest is smeared with blood.
• The Fastness: Dan has returned, thanks to breakthroughs in time travel technology, from Golgotha, where he was able to film the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, in colour, using a small camera concealed in his chest cavity. His companions, Ann, Tod and Pat, wearing appropriate surgical scrubs, cut into his upper body to retrieve the device, in the course of which Dan inadvertently emits plumes of blood from, we imagine, severed arteries and other vascular components. His resourceful team members are drenched.
• Gulch: Betty, Hector, Frank and Trudy leave the house and return several times, as if there were assignments that had to be completed. With the exception of Hector, all are bloodstained on their return. When Betty re-enters, her face and arms glisten with dark gore. The high window, its sills snowed up, silently seeps blood that drips to the table below, bathing the pearl-handled pistols.
• Sleet: no blood is shed in Sleet.
• Gush: Roy, beneath a bucket of blood, is dowsed. Gina, searching for biscuits, is copiously blued. Dean, wishing to make cupcakes, is enfloured (not a liquid but producing a pleasing halo effect when backlit). Roy, beaten with sticks, stamped upon and having his testicles bitten off, is yellowed from above. Nina, seeking to restrain the reddened, maddened and yellowed Roy, is, while grappling with him, blackened, also from above.
We have, therefore, five sets of requirements:
• the blood that is spat must be non-toxic and thinnish but not too thin or else, on the face, it goes pink and translucent within a matter of seconds.
• the blood that adheres to the skin must not run from its original site of placement. If it runs it will mottle. It must be particularly sticky and is daubed rather than wiped on.
• the blood that spurts from the body must be thicker than that which is spat but not so thick that it blocks the washing-up liquid bottles from which it is squirted or so thin that it soaks within seconds into the fabric of the scrub leaving a stain that is pale and half-hearted.
• the blood that bleeds from the window passes through pipes then soaks into salt. It needs to be thick but must not clog.
• the blood that drops from the sky, as with the red and the yellow and the black, must, as it falls, form cords in the air, hitting the deck with a splat and splashing the walls as it utterly masks the features of those underneath.
All these bloods can be made on a table with buckets and bowls, stirrers and spoons.