Grand Guignol

The Grand Guignol (pronounced IPA| [gʁɑ̃ giɲɔl] ) was a theatre ("Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol") in the Pigalle area of Paris (at 20 "bis, rue" Chaptal), which, from its opening in 1897 to its closing in 1962, specialized in naturalistic horror shows. The name is often used as a general term for graphic, amoral horror entertainment.

Theatre

"Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol" was founded in 1894 by Oscar Méténier, who planned it as a space for naturalist performance. With 293 seats, the theater was the smallest in Paris.cite news |last= |first= |url=http://www.grandguignol.com/time1950.htm |title=Paris Writhes Again |publisher= "Time Magazine" |date=January 16, 1950 |accessdate=2007-04-10] The building was a former chapel, and the theatre's history showed in the boxes, which looked like confessionals, and in the angels over the orchestra.

The theater owed its name to Guignol, a traditional Lyonnaise puppet character, joining political commentary with the style of Punch and Judy.

The theatre's peak was between World War I and World War II when it was frequented by royalty and celebrities in evening dress.cite news |last=Schneider |first=P. E. |url=http://www.grandguignol.com/nytmag.htm |title=Fading Horrors of the Grand Guignol |publisher= "New York Times Magazine" |date=March 18, 1957 |accessdate=2007-04-10]

Important people

Oscar Metenier was the theatre's founder and original director. Under his direction, the theatre produced plays about a class of people who were not considered appropriate subjects in other venues: prostitutes, criminals, street urchins, and others of Paris's lowest class.

Max Maurey served as director from 1898 to 1914. Maurey shifted the theatre's emphasis to the horror plays it would become famous for and judged the success of a performance by the number of patrons who fainted; the average was two patrons fainting per evening. Maurey discovered André de Lorde, who was to be the most important playwright for the theatre.

André de Lorde was the theatre's principal playwright from 1901 to 1926. He wrote at least one hundred plays for the Grand Guignol and collaborated with experimental psychologist Alfred Binet to create plays about insanity, one of the theatre's most frequently recurring themes.

Camille Choisy served as director from 1914 to 1930. He contributed his expertise in special effects and scenery to the theatre's distinctive style.

Paula Maxa was one of the Grand Guignol's best-known performers. From 1917 to the 1930s, she performed most frequently as a victim and was known as "the most assassinated woman in the world." During her career at the Grand Guignol, Maxa was murdered more than 10,000 times in at least sixty different ways and was raped at least 3,000 times.cite news |last=Schneider |first=P. E. |url=http://www.grandguignol.com/nytmag.htm |title=Fading Horrors of the Grand Guignol |publisher=New York Times Magazine |date=March 18, 1957 |accessdate=2007-04-10]

Jack Jouvin served as director from 1930 to 1937. He made a shift in the theatre's subject matter, focusing the performances not on gory horror but psychological drama. Under his leadership, the theatre's popularity waned, and after World War II, it was not well-attended.cite news |last=Peirron |first=Agnes |url=http://www.grandguignol.com/history.htm |title=House of Horrors |publisher=Grand Guignol Online |date= |accessdate=2007-04-10]

Charles Nonon was the theatre's last director.cite news |last= |first= |url=http://www.grandguignol.com/time1962.htm |title=Outdone by Reality |publisher= "Time Magazine" |date=November 30, 1962 |accessdate=2007-04-10]

Plays

At the Grand Guignol, patrons would see five or six plays, all in a style which attempted to be brutally true to the theatre's naturalistic ideals. The plays were in a variety of styles, but the most popular and best-known were the horror plays, featuring a distinctly bleak worldview as well as particularly gory special effects in their notoriously bloody climaxes. These plays often explored the altered states, like insanity, hypnosis, panic, under which uncontrolled horror could happen. Some of the horror came from the nature of the crimes shown, which often had very little reason behind them and in which the evildoers were rarely punished or defeated. To heighten the effect, the horror plays were often alternated with comedies.cite news |last= |first=|url=http://www.grandguignol.com/ |title=What is Grand Guignol? |publisher=Grand Guignol Online |date= |accessdate=2007-04-10] cite news |last=Pierron |first=Agnes |url=http://www.grandguignol.com/grandstreet.htm |title=House of Horrors |publisher="Grand Street Magazine" |date=Summer, 1996 |accessdate=2007-04-10]

"Le Laboratoire des Hallucinations," by André de Lorde: When a doctor finds his wife's lover in his operating room, he performs a graphic brain surgery rendering the adulterer a hallucinating semi-zombie. Now insane, the lover/patient hammers a chisel into the doctor's brain.cite news |last= |first=|url=http://www.grandguignol.com/time1947.htm |title=Murders in the Rue Chaptal |publisher="Time Magazine" |date=March 10, 1947 |accessdate=2007-04-10]

"Un Crime dans une Maison de Fous," by André de Lorde: Two hags in an insane asylum use scissors to blind a young, pretty fellow inmate out of jealousy.cite news |last= |first=|url=http://www.grandguignol.com/time1947.htm |title=Murders in the Rue Chaptal |publisher="Time Magazine" |date=March 10, 1947 |accessdate=2007-04-10]

"L'Horrible Passion," by André de Lorde: A nanny strangles the children in her care.cite news |last=Pierron |first=Agnes |url=http://www.grandguignol.com/grandstreet.htm |title=House of Horrors |publisher="Grand Street Magazine" |date=Summer, 1996 |accessdate=2007-04-10]

Theatre closing

The Grand Guignol theatre closed its doors in 1962. "We could never equal Buchenwald," said its final director, Charles Nonon, on the theatre's decline and fall. "Before the war, everyone felt that what was happening onstage was impossible. Now we know that these things, and worse, are possible in reality."cite news |last= |first= |url=http://www.grandguignol.com/time1962.htm |title=Outdone by Reality |publisher=Time Magazine |date=November 30, 1962 |accessdate=2007-04-10]

Legacy

Grand Guignol flourished briefly in London in the early 1920s under the direction of Jose Levy.

Since 1991, San Francisco's Thrillpeddlers theatre company has been performing English translations of plays originally shown at the Grand Guignol. They currently perform at their custom-designed theatre, The Hypnodrome.cite news |last= |first= |url=http://www.thrillpeddlers.com/ |title=Thrillpeddlers |publisher=Thrillpeddlers |date= |accessdate=2007-04-10] .

In recent years English director writer, Richard Mazda, has re-introduced New York audiences to The Grand Guignol. His acting troupe, The Queens Players have produced 4 mainstage productions of Grand Guignol plays and Mazda has even begun writing new plays in the classic style.

The 1963 mondo film ECCO includes a scene which may have been filmed at the Grand Guignol theatre during its final years.cite news |last= |first= |url=http://www.grandguignol.com/video.htm |title=Excerpt from the film "ECCO" (1963) |publisher=Grand Guignol Online |date= |accessdate=2007-04-10]

Washington, D.C.-based Molotov Theatre Group, established in 2007, is dedicated to preserving and exploring the aesthetic of the Grand Guignol. They have entered two plays into the Capital Fringe Festival in Washington, D.C.. Their 2007 show, For Boston, won "Best Comedy".

Further reading

*Gordon, Mel. "The Grand Guignol: Theatre of Fear and Terror." Da Capo Press, 1997.
*Hand, Richard, and Michael Wilson. "Grand-Guignol: The French Theatre of Horror." University of Exeter Press, 2002.

Footnotes

External links

* [http://www.grandguignol.com Grand Guignol Online] - Grand Guignol history, plays, posters, video, articles, and forums (in English).
* [http://www.newplays.org.uk/fallandrise/background/grandguignol.htm NewPlays.org.uk] - A brief history of Grand Guignol.


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  • grand-guignol — ● grand guignol nom masculin singulier Familier. C est du grand guignol, cela relève du mélodrame le plus outré. ● grand guignol (expressions) nom masculin singulier Familier. C est du grand guignol, cela relève du mélodrame le plus outré. Grand… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Grand-Guignol — Théâtre Par catégories Personnalité …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Grand guignol — Théâtre Par catégories Personnalité …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Grand-Guignol —   [grãgi ɲɔl; französisch, zu guignol »Kasperfigur (im Lyoner Marionettentheater)«], Theater, 1895 als »Théâtre Salon« auf dem Pariser Montmartre gegründet, ab 1899 unter dem Namen »Le Grand Guignol« von Max Maurey (* 1868, ✝ 1947) geleitet, der… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Grand-Guignol — [gʁɑ̃ giɲɔl] kommt aus dem Französischen und bedeutet so viel wie „großes Kasperle“. Es ist zudem eine Gattungsbezeichnung für grotesk triviale Grusel und Horrorstücke. Das Grand Guignol setzte das im 18. Jahrhundert im Geiste der Aufklärung… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • grand-guignol — /fr. ˌɡrãɡiˈɲɔl/ [dal fr. grand «grande» e Guignol, nome di una marionetta lionese] s. m. inv. 1. teatro dell orrore 2. (est.) scena macabra, scena truculenta …   Sinonimi e Contrari. Terza edizione

  • Grand-Guignol — Grand Gui|gnol* [grãgin jɔl] das; , s <nach dem Namen des Pariser Theaters Le Grand Guignol> Theaterstück mit bewusst platt abgeschmackter u. blutrünstiger, aber dennoch naiver Darstellungsweise …   Das große Fremdwörterbuch

  • Grand Guignol — Grand Gui•gnol fr. [[t]grɑ̃ giˈnyɔl[/t]] n. 1) sbz a short drama stressing horror and sensationalism 2) sbz of, pertaining to, or resembling such a drama • Etymology: 1905–10; after Le Grand Guignol, small theater in Paris where such dramas were… …   From formal English to slang

  • Grand Guignol — [grän gē nyō̂l′] n. [the name of a former theater in Paris noted for such drama] [occas.g g ] any dramatic production designed to shock and horrify its audience with its gruesome or macabre content …   English World dictionary

  • Grand Guignol — Tourneeplakat des Theatre du Grand Guignol de Paris Grand Guignol [gʁɑ̃ giɲɔl] kommt aus dem Französischen und bedeutet so viel wie „großes Kasperle“. Der kleine Guignol ist das französische Gegenstück zur Kasperlefigur. Grand Guignol ist zudem… …   Deutsch Wikipedia


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