Grand-Guignol: Performance History
  • An evening at the Theatre du Grand-Guignol consisted of a series of short plays, usually a mixture of comedy and horror performed in alternation to offer the audience a “hot and cold shower” of laughter and fear.
  • The Grand-Guignol merited from its seedy surroundings.  It was located in a dark alley in the red light district of Paris and this established a perfect atmosphere for the Grand-Guignol’s collection of macabre and erotic plays, both horrific and comic.
  • The theatre was a converted chapel that still bore many characteristics of its former incarnation.  Religious murals decked the walls and two large carved angels loomed overhead.
  • The intimate space of the theatre added an aspect of claustrophobia to its performances, and the proscenium arch made the horror special effects more believable to the audience
  • The plays performed there were often based on fait divers, colorfully illustrated reports of gory crimes that appeared in Parisian newspapers.
  • The Grand-Guignol was known for its realistic and gory special effects, but writing was also very important in directing audience attention and building suspense while suggesting to the audience what they should expect to see.
  • The Grand-Guignol maintained a naturalist interest in the concerns of the working classes while offering a melodramatic style of performance that gave it a broad popular appeal.
  • The horror of the Grand-Guignol was always human.  In keeping with its naturalist origins, the theatre did not present supernatural horrors but rather psychological horrors concerned with the dark side of humanity.
  • Although the Grand-Guignol had a symbiotic relationship with cinema in its early years, it is likely that the advent steadily increasing popularity of horror films ultimately contributed to the theatre’s downfall.
  • How bloody was the Grand-Guignol?  Stories persist about the blood-spattered stage but production records suggest that suspense and psychological horror played as much of a part as outright gore.