Down a dark alley in the red-light district of Montmartre sits a deconsecrated chapel turned theatre, which between 1897 and 1962 achieved international notoriety as Le Théåtre du Grand-Guignol, with its repertoire of horror dramas and sex farces, which came together in a heady mix of fear and eroticism. As a theatre form it has had an unparalleled influence on the evolution of the horror film and the term ‘grand-guignol’ has entered the vocabulary to describe any overt display of staged horror. Such was its fame that many attempts were made to set up Grand-Guignol theatres around the world, the most successful of which was in London between 1920-22 and included Sybil Thorndike and Lewis Casson and staged plays by Noel Coward amongst others before finally falling victim to the infamous blue pencil of the Lord Chamberlain. Yet in spite of this, the Grand-Guignol remains one of the world’s great forgotten theatres.
Richard Hand and Michael Wilson are authors of Grand-Guignol: French Theatre of Horror and London’s Grand Guignol. In this talk they will give a brief introduction to the genre and a short history of Grand-Guignol in both Paris and London.