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Grand Guignol (1897 - 1962)

poster for Grand Guignol play Jardin des Supplices - Octave Mirbeau


Grand Guignol is an adjective describing any dramatic entertainment featuring the violently gruesome and gory.

The phrase comes from the "Grand Guignol" theatre in Montmartre, Paris, which specialised in such entertainment. It opened in 1897. The theatre stood at 20 bis rue Chaptal in Montmartre. The name originally meant "the big puppet theatre;" a guignol is a Punch and Judy show, traditional in Lyon.

It was an exceedingly small affair, especially by current standards; it seated no more than 300 people. This small capacity added an extra piquancy to the goings-on on stage, because the theatre's stock in trade was special effects made from the byproducts of the butcher's shop. The gouged-out eye trick was a perennial favourite.

The principal playwright of the Grand Guignol was André de Lorde who wrote at least 100 plays for the venue between the years 1901 and 1926. His plays focused on the horrific potential of household objects, the suffering of innocents, infanticide, insanity, and vengeance. The plays were typically short, and several were shown in the course of the evening. Occasional sex farces were thrown into the playlists, partially for their own sake, and partially to keep the audience guessing whether these, too, would turn out to have gory climaxes.

The Grand Guignol theatre closed its doors in 1962, unable to compete with motion pictures.

The Grand Guignol theatre was recreated for the motion picture stage in 1994 for the film of Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_guignol [Jun 2004]

André de Lorde

André de Lorde, (1871-1933 (?)) born in France, the son of a nobleman whose title was more impressive than his fortune, was the chief author of the Grand Guignol plays. His evening career was as a dramatist of terror; in the day, he worked as a librarian in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. He wrote more than a hundred plays, all of them devoted chiefly to the exploitation of terror. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andr%E9_de_Lorde [Nov 2004]

Grand-Guignol: The French Theatre of Horror

Grand-Guignol: The French Theatre of Horror (Exeter Performance Studies) - Richard J. Hand, Michael Wilson [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

About the Author
Richard Hand and Michael Wilson are Principal Lecturers in Drama at the University of Glamorgan. Richard Hand is assistant editor and translator of 'Naturalism and Symbolism in European Theatre, 1850-1918' (CUP, 1996). Michael Wilson is author of 'Performance and Practice: Oral Narrative Traditions among Teenagers in Britain and Ireland' (Ashgate, 1997).

The Théâtre du Grand-Guignol in Paris (1897-1962) achieved a legendary reputation as the "Theatre of Horror", a venue displaying such explicit violence and blood-curdling terror that a resident doctor was employed to treat the numerous spectators who fainted each night. Indeed, the phrase grand guignol has entered the language to describe any display of sensational horror.

Since the theatre closed its doors forty years ago, the genre has been overlooked by critics and theatre historians. This book reconsiders the importance and influence of the Grand-Guignol within its social, cultural and historical contexts, and is the first attempt at a major evaluation of the genre as performance. It gives full consideration to practical applications and to the challenges presented to the actor and director.

The book also includes oustanding new translations by the authors of ten Grand-Guignol plays, none of which have been previously available in English. The presentation of these plays in English for the first time is an implicit demand for a total reappraisal of the grand-guignol genre, not least for the unexpected inclusion of two very funny comedies. --Book Description via Amazon.com

The Grand Guignol: Theatre of Fear and Terror (1997) - Mel Gordon

The Grand Guignol: Theatre of Fear and Terror (1997) - Mel Gordon [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

From Library Journal
From 1897 to 1962 the Grand Guignol Theatre in Paris attracted a fervent following of assorted spectators who either exorcized unspeakable impulses or exulted in the unspeakable crimes. Gordon has preserved this institution, which influenced both vanguard and boulevard drama, for theater history. He situates the phenomenon in turn-of-the-century naturalism and carefully records its dramatis personae and policies. He includes summaries of 100 plots, and with the help of Jeff Casper has translated three plays by the "Prince of Terror," Andre de Lorde. The book is also a treasury of stills, posters, and other theater memorabilia. Indispensable for theater history collections. Marilyn Gaddis Rose, SUNY at Binghamton Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Mel Gordon is the author of Stanislavsky Technique: Russia (1987); Lazzi: The Comic Routines of the Commedia Dell’Arte (1983); The Grand Guignol: Theatre of Fear and Terror (1988); Expressionist Texts (1986); and Dada Performance (1987); as well as over sixty articles on American, French, Russian, German, Italian, and Yiddish theater, He has also published a book on the erotic world of Weimar Berlin.

Mel Gordon has directed over twenty productions in Frankfurt, Houston, New York, Paris, and Zurich. He is the Former Associate Editor of "The Drama Review." He has taught at the Lee Strasberg Institute, Michael Chekhov Studio, New York University, and Yale University. He received his Ph.D. from New York University.

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