Theatre: Grand Guignol



On a chilly Tuesday night, I caught a few thrills and chills with Johnnyfox at Theatre of the Damned's Grand Guignol, which is playing at the Etcetera Theatre above the Oxford Arms on Camden High Street. The Grand Guignol was a playhouse in Paris that for 65 years presented a series of grisly melodramas and cruel plays. It sounded like a smashing place but nowadays it is a term that is more generally used to refer to any sort of horror play. Cheap thrills aren't always easy to find at the theatre nowadays. The Southwark Playhouse does a good job with its Terror season, but it is nice to see there is also a production company dedicated to scaring the pants off audiences.

Presented here are three very fine plays that will alternatively make you jump or make you queasy. Given that, it is probably a good idea to go to the bathroom before it starts as if you wet yourself during the performance, there is no intermission.

The first play, Crime in a Madhouse, a young woman in an insane asylum is taunted by two women who want to get her. The thrills and shocks were somewhat dissipated when Johnnyfox suggested one of the women looked like Vivienne Westwood with better teeth, but it was still an enjoyable story with some excellent performances (particularly by Christine Edwards as Vivienne Mrs Cornish). The second play The Final Torture is as a tense play set during the Boxer Rebellion in China where paranoia abounds. Both of these plays were adapted from original plays presented at the Paris Grand Guignol. The final play, The Art of Death, is an original piece that pays homage to a Parisian theatre of the macabre with a producer who is seeking the ultimate special effect. Particularly creepy is Simon Evans who plays Gilles, the very talented special effects man.

The production and acting are all of high standard. What also makes these plays work is the claustrophobia, the lighting and the sound effects. Sometimes the horror is hilarious, and that's part of the fun. If there is a complaint, it could be that sometimes the dialogue is redundant and the punchlines unnecessary. But this is a minor quibble in an otherwise excellent production. It runs until December 12. Definitely worth a trip out in the cold for a few thrills... I can't wait for their next spooky production.

First impressions, including my inability to pronounce Grand Guignol (I add this to my list of words to stumble over, which includes proscenium, achluophobia and Menier), are in the audioboo below
Listen!

Popular posts from this blog

Opera and full frontal nudity: Rigoletto

Opera: The Minotaur

More comings and goings: F*cking Men @KingsHeadThtr