Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Review: Grand Guignol at the Southwark Playhouse

Grand Guignol
Southwark Playhouse (The Large)
Reviewed on Monday 27th September 2014

A wonderfully horrific play, Grand Guignol shocks and amuses whilst delving into a fairly interesting piece of theatrical history. Written by Carl Grose, the piece takes place in 1903 when the Theatre du Grand Guignol presented horror shows.

There are two worlds within Grand Guignol; some of the gruesome yet brilliant horror plays are performed and we also meet the theatre company who put them on. Grose's writing is clever, just as I thought I had got to grips with the structure he throws a spanner into the works - Grose isn't afraid to trick and play games with his audience.

Simon Stokes' production (which has transferred from the Theatre Royal Plymouth where Stokes is Artistic Director) is suitably gory and gruesome. There were plenty of moments where I didn't want to look but couldn't help but stare with my mouth wide open in utter disgust. Sometimes horror doesn't translate well on stage, but Grose's play works as the tone is spot on. The humour is consistently strong and I love that the audience are constantly reminded "it is only a play..."

Watching someone's tongue being pulled out on screen in a horror movie is quite something, but seeing someone's tongue being pulled out on stage in front of your very eyes is ten times more horrendous. The technical side of Grand Guignol is astounding; the cast of six are unbelievably slick, all delivering solid performances whilst excelling and showcasing versatility in multiple roles.

I attend shows at the Southwark Playhouse regularly, but this was the first time I've seen a production which has transformed the space into a more traditional, end-on layout with a proscenium arch (when I walked in I found myself completely disorientated). The show is a perfect fit for Southwark; its intimacy allows the connection to be stronger and concentration to be more focussed. 

Making the perfect show for the Halloween season, for those who dare to buy a ticket, Grand Guignol will provides a few hours of revolting fun. Not for the faint hearted or those who are not a fan of the horror genre, Grand Guignol is written and performed with peculiar irresistible charm. I dread to think what I will dream about for the rest of the week!

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Grand Guignol runs at the Southwark Playhouse until Saturday 22nd November 2014. Visit www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Steve Tanner 

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