There will be blood! Theatre directors painting the stage red is good for fake blood suppliers

Nick Clark learns the trade’s secrets

The most talked-about theatre production in London is Titus Andronicus, currently playing at Shakespeare’s Globe. It has become notorious for racking up a body count in the audience as well as on stage – the relentless blood and guts proving too much for the faint-hearted. It is described by its own publicity material as “grotesquely violent” … but it is only the latest blood-soaked production to hit the stage.

Where then, gore-flecked audience members and the rest of us want to know, does the blood come from? The answer is Pigs Might Fly South. This fancifully named company makes stage blood, and for them, business has never been better. It has doubled turnover in the past year and boosted production five-fold since March, and still demand is growing. 

The company, which also provides blood for television and film, now makes up to 450 litres of the fake blood a week, and is taking on new employees to help meet demand. They’ve had to replace their 30-litre vat with a 150-litre catering vessel in order to deal with the production demands.

Anthony Davies, who runs PMFS with his partner Lois Oakes, says: “There’s been a dramatic increase in the past 18 months in the desire for bloody theatre productions. It’s not just that there are more shows with blood, it’s the quantity of blood that they want. They’re really going for it now.”

The production that kicked off the trend was Macbeth, directed by Jamie Lloyd and starring James McAvoy, which opened at the Trafalgar Studios in the West End in February last year, and used “tens of gallons” of fake blood. At one stage it rained from the ceiling.

Since then, shows including 1984, Urinetown: The Musical and several further productions of Titus Andronicus have coated the stage in blood. The publicity around the audience fainting at the latest Titus “is great for us”, Davies says. “To have that sort of effect on the public.”

“In the past, theatre has shied away from the carnage that would require a lot of blood. That has changed and it seems they want to put a lot more blood in,” he continues. “They want it ‘movie’ realistic.”

Terri Paddock, a theatre industry expert, comments: “It does seem to be the influence of films and television on the younger theatre directors like Jamie Lloyd that is causing the definite growing trend for more blood on stage.”

It is a competitive market, with stockists carrying up to eight fake blood brands. PMFS provides two types: “Standard”, imitating freshly drawn arterial blood, and “Dark” for older blood, both made out of a sugar-based syrup coloured by industrial food dye. Theatre directors prefer “dark” as it looks better under the lights.

“Our blood is incredibly realistic,” says Davies. “The colours were carefully chosen. Another big draw is that it’s very washable. It easily comes out of costumes.” Which must be a comfort for the beleaguered wardrobe staff of theatreland.

Demand shows no sign of slowing, and the company has taken over blood supplies for the West End musical The Commitments, as well as the forthcoming production of Richard III starring Martin Freeman. “That’s looking like it will be pretty bloody,” Davies notes.

The blood was developed three decades ago by Nick Dudman, a special effects expert who worked on the Harry Potter movies. He passed the business onto his niece Oakes, and Davies. “We kept the business in the family,” Davies says, with a smile. “Blood is thicker than water.”

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?