By Richard J. Hand
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Extra info for Grand-Guignol: The French Theatre of Horror
Jouvin had no intention of playing the sleeping partner and attempted to assume control of the theatre. There followed a brief but seemingly acrimonious relationship between the two new partners, at the end of which Choisy left the Grand-Guignol in 1928 to set up ‘Le Théâtre du Rire et de l’Épouvante’ at the Théâtre Saint-Georges. 11 Maxa herself was contractually obliged to remain at the GrandGuignol, but as soon as Jouvin was assured of victory in his battle with Choisy, she too was unceremoniously released, according to her own version of events, for having too popular a following.
The Grand-Guignol—either as a late or postmelodramatic form—would seem to have used such techniques as a central feature of its practice. Although some publicity shots of GrandGuignol present images that look naturalistic, many pictures and displays of the form reveal gestures and expressions that are heightened to the extreme. In addition to his work as a dramatist André de Lorde wrote a practical guide for actors entitled Pour Jouer la Comédie de Salon (1908). In this work de Lorde provides some interesting guidelines for performance practice that, although not expressly about Grand-Guignol, are nevertheless worthy of consideration.
We have found controlling a direct address to be a valuable strategy in performance practice, although it should never be over-used (except, occasionally, in comedy). We have used the calculated gaze for numerous moments of horror: whether it is the Grand-Guignol ‘monster’ before a moment of physical violence, or a ‘victim’ at the moment of revelation. The Ecco footage is an extremely valuable artefact, as it gives us an insight into the Grand-Guignol’s melodramatic performance style at the time of the theatre’s demise.