The Grand-Guignol: The French Theatre of Horror (Exeter Performance Studies)

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9780859896955: The Grand-Guignol: The French Theatre of Horror (Exeter Performance Studies)

The Théâtre du Grand-Guignol in Paris (1897-1962) achieved a legendary reputation as the 'Theatre of Horror,' a venue displaying such explicit violence and blood-curdling terror that a resident doctor was employed to treat the numerous spectators who fainted each night. Indeed, the phrase 'grand guignol' has entered the language to describe any display of sensational horror. Since the theatre closed its doors forty years ago, the genre has been overlooked by critics and theatre historians. This book reconsiders the importance and influence of the Grand-Guignol within its social, cultural and historical contexts, and is the first attempt at a major evaluation of the genre as performance. It gives full consideration to practical applications and to the challenges presented to the actor and director. The book also includes oustanding new translations by the authors of ten Grand-Guignol plays, none of which have been previously available in English. The presentation of these plays in English for the first time is an implicit demand for a total reappraisal of the grand-guignol genre, not least for the unexpected inclusion of two very funny comedies.

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About the Author:

Mike Wilson is Dean of the School of Media and Performance at University College, Falmouth. He is author of Performance and Practice: Oral Narrative Traditions among Teenagers in Britain and Ireland (Ashgate, 1997). Richard Hand is Professor of Drama at the University of Glamorgan. He is also assistant editor and translator of Naturalism and Symbolism in European Theatre, 1850 - 1918 (CUP, 1996).

Review:

'...offers a highly readable, intelligent, and good-humoured account of the complex intersection of historical, political, social, and cultural forces that influenced censorship during this period. The writing is lively, authoritative, and full of wonderful detail acquired during Nicholson's meticulous research into the Lord Chamberlain's theatre and correspondence archives...' 'The scope of Nicholson's research is admirable for many reasons, not least for the months he spent reading every file in the Lord Chamberlain's Collection. But it is more than this. By refusing to limit his study to the "great and the good," Nicholson reveals much about the overall character of British theatrical life during this period, about the themes and issues that preoccupied the censors, and the political implications of how a powerful elite exerted both overt and covert pressure on such a vital component of cultural practice.' '...this chapter continues to provide the same incisive commentary, detailed examples, and shocking revelations that characterize the rest of the book.' 'Throughout the book, Nicholson probes the implications of decisions to endorse, cut, rewrite, restrict, and censor lines, characters, speeches, and themes and establishes how these decisions interrelate with the wider political climate. The result is an excellent book, which both illuminates a vital period of theatre history and reveals a great deal about the internal mechanisms, shifting agendas, intricate negotiations, compromises and revisions overseen by the Lord Chamberlain's office. It leaves a vivid impression of the culture and prevalent political discourses that governed theatre censorship during this time and provides a powerful indictment of a pompous and insidious agent of repression that attempted to preserve the veneer of a polite, unquestioning society.' '...should be welcomed as a long overdue account of the role and function of British theatre censorship during the twentieth century.' (Modern Drama. Vol. XLVIII, No 1, Spring 05) 'Nicholson is very readable. He tells a good story, both chronologically and in the many accounts of particular wrangles, campaigns, negotiations, subtleties, paradoxes and outrages. He makes good maps - of contesting discourses, of logistical problems for the Censorship and of the lived relationships between the functions of Lord Chamberlain and his comptroller at Saint James's Palace and (at the workface) the reader or examiner of plays. With respect to the last in particular, he uses correspondence to give palpable life to human agencies within institutional structures.' '...this is also both a work of reference - it efficiently points us to particular records - and a fine work of synthesis and summary - Nicholson has done the legwork for a community of scholars.' (Theatre Research International, 32.2) 'a major new contribution to twentieth-century British theatre history.' 'The chief pleasure of Nicholson's book is his generous quoting from the interior communications of the office, affording a glimpse of the individual personalities behind the bureaucracy.' (Theatre Journal, December 2005, Vol.57, No.4)

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Richard J. Hand, Michael Wilson
Published by University of Exeter Press (2002)
ISBN 10: 0859896951 ISBN 13: 9780859896955
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