Grand Guignol

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Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol (French pronunciation: [ɡʁɑ̃ ɡiɲɔl]: "The Theater of the Big Puppet") — known as the Grand Guignol — was in the Pigalle area of Paris (at 20 bis, rue Chaptal). From its opening in 1897 until its closing in 1962 it specialized in naturalistic horror shows. Its name is often used as a general term for graphic, amoral horror entertainment, a genre popular from Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre (for instance Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and Webster's The White Devil) to today's splatter films.



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 venue was the smallest in Paris.[1] A former chapel, the theater's previous life was evident 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.[2]

The theater's peak was between World War I and World War II, when it was frequented by royalty and celebrities in evening dress.[3]

Important people

Oscar Méténier was the Grand Guignol's founder and original director. Under his direction, the theater produced plays about a class of people who were not considered appropriate subjects in other venues: prostitutes, criminals, street urchins, and others at the lower end of Paris' social echelon.

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

André de Lorde was the theater's principal playwright from 1901 to 1926. He wrote at least 100 plays for the Grand Guignol and collaborated with experimental psychologist Alfred Binet to create plays about insanity, one of the theater's frequently recurring themes.

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