Grand Guignol review: Shlocky-horror show fails to make a killing

 

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The Independent Culture

So legendary were the gory, blood-spattered productions of Paris’s Theatre du Grand Guignol at the end of the 19th century, the name itself became shorthand for horror.

Simon Stokes’ revival of Carl Grose’s affectionate pastiche leads us backstage – but for the most part is neither chillingly grisly nor camply comic enough to really thrill.

The action shifts between the Grand Guignol’s shlock-horror playlets, all escaped lunatics and vengeful corpses, and the company stewing behind the scenes.

Playwright André De Lorde (played with boyish buoyancy by Jonathan Broadbent) struggles with his demons while the rest of the thesps ponder the identity of “the monster of Montmartre”, a serial killer on the loose...

Grand Guignol sets up much metatheatrical japery, but doesn’t always follow even its own twisted, play-within-a-play logic. At two hours, it too often it feels like an overextended skit, but lacks sketch comedy’s madcap pace.

There are plenty of good comic turns here – Robert Portal’s deadpan luvvie a particular highlight – but the deliberately hammy delivery wears as thin as squirty stage-blood.

To 22 November (020 7407 0234)

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