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Review: Macabre comedy Grand Guignol, Southwark Playhouse

ImageThe nights are drawing in and the Grand Guignol in early 20th Century Paris is drawing in the crowds for its macabre and terrifying horror shows. Meanwhile outside on the streets of Monmatre a monster carries out his gruesome murders. 

Into this scenario steps eminent psychologist Dr Alfred Binet (Matthew Pearson) who is conducting a study of 'creatives': "Actors, playwrights, lunatics. They are all imminently fascinating to me."

And so it begins, a witches cauldron of horror, melodrama, satire and farce with a pinch of murder mystery added for good measure.

The actors at the Grand Guignol are pretentious and affected, the stage manager/props maker bossy and the owner of the theatre demanding in the pursuit of profit. The theatre's resident writer Andre De Lorde (Jonathan Broadbent) is a gentle soul but a slave to his craft and haunted by Edgar Allen Poe whom he relies on for inspiration (a terrifying Andy Williams complete with stuffed raven on his shoulder).

Later we meet the theatre critic Level (Andy Williams again). He is all that you imagine in this context but with a delightful twist.

As the success of the theatre grows so does the body count outside. Dr Binet is determined to cure De Lorde of his creative tormet but will that affect his talent and how far will the company go to keep the theatre open?

Grand Guignol is a riotous comedy where the horrors are not just gruesome staged murders but the airs and graces affected by those working in the theatre.

Playwright Carl Grose gently satirises theatre and psychiatry but he does it with wit fun and cleverness generously drenched in blood and gore. I had great fun watching Grand Guignol and the cast looked like they were having great fun too. It runs at the Southwark Playhouse until 22 November. Be warned that if you nab a seat on the front row there is a chance you might get splattered.

Thanks to Official Theatre for the ticket.