University of Exeter Press


Classic and Contemporary Horror Theatre

    • 294 Pages

    While the infamous Théâtre du Grand-Guignol in Paris closed its doors in 1962, the particular form of horror theatre it spawned lives on and has, moreover, witnessed something of a resurgence over the past twenty years. During its heyday it inspired many imitators, though none quite as successful as the Montmartre-based original. In more recent times, new Grand-Guignol companies the world over have emerged to reimagine the form for a new generation of audiences. This book, the fourth volume in University of Exeter Press’s series on the Grand-Guignol by Richard J. Hand and Michael Wilson, examines the ongoing influence and legacy of the Théâtre du Grand-Guignol through an appraisal of its contemporary imitators and modern reincarnations.

    As with the previous volumes, Grand-Guignolesque consists of a lengthy critical introduction followed by a series of previously unpublished scripts, each with its own contextualizing preface. The effect thereof is to map the evolution of horror theatre over the past 120 years, asking where the influence of the Grand-Guignol is most visible today, and what might account for its recent resurgence. This book will be of interest not only to the drama student, theatre historian and scholar of popular theatre, but also to the theatre practitioner, theatregoer and horror fan.

    Hand and Wilson have done it again – their work on the Grand Guignol has been both pioneering and vital. This, their latest volume, mixes plays from the Grand Guignol with contemporary dramas inspired by the French theatre of fear and shock, and what wonderful plays they are! From the droll to the terrifying these dramas delight and chill. It is the good fortune of theatre and horror fans that Hand and Wilson have once again expanded the pool of scripts available in English. Augmented by an insightful and entertaining overview of horror theatre, the collection stands alone as a brilliant corpus of dread for the stage and the logical extension of their work so far – well worth adding to the shelf.

    Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr., Author of Eaters of the Dead

    Hand and Wilson here create a picture of Grand-Guignol’s recent and living performance history with as much attention to detail and historical rigour as they have previously applied to early twentieth-century iterations. The selected plays are diverse in voice and subject; each one is fun and horrible in equal measure.

    Geraint D'Arcy, University of East Anglia

    Prepare to gasp, gag, and guffaw as Richard Hand and Michael Wilson track the global influence of Paris’s infamous Théâtre du Grand-Guignol across thirteen blood-soaked plays produced between 1907 and 2015, and collected here for the first time. This important anthology makes a powerful case for the enduring presence of a “grand guignolesque” mode within contemporary live horror performance, and will serve as an invaluable resource for future generations of Gothic scholars, theatre practitioners, and horror aficionados.

    Christine Ferguson, University of Stirling

    One of the things I like about it is the absence of the verbosity that sometimes ruins academic writing; Hand and Wilson write snappily and makes their points clearly...All in all, a very interesting book - I learned a good deal from it.

    Martin Edwards, crime writer and crime fiction critic




    Chapter 1. Establishing the Grand-Guignolesque

    Chapter 2. The Grand-Guignol’s Contemporary Imitators and Competitors

    Chapter 3: The New Wave

    Chapter 4: Afterword

    Appendix: The Molotov Manifesto, or Acting Grand Guignol, Molotov Style


    Thirteen Plays of Grand-Guignol and the Grand-Guignolesque


    Professor Verdier’s Operations (Les Opérations du Professeur Verdier, 1907) by Élie de Bassan

    Short Circuit (Le Court-Circuit, 1916) by Benjamin Rabier and Eugène Joullot

    The Little House at Auteuil (La Petite Maison D’Auteuil, 1917) by Robert Scheffer and Georges Lignereux

    The Unhinged (Les Détraquées, 1924) by Palau and Olaf

    The Eyes of the Phantom (Les Yeux du Spectre, 1924) by Jean Aragny

    The Lover of Death (L’Amant de Mort, 1925) by Maurice Renard

    Orgy in the Lighthouse (L’Orgie dans le phare, 1956) adapted by Eddie Muller from Alfred Machard’s play

    The Sticking Place (2008) by Lucas Maloney and Michael McMahon, with Alex Zavistovich

    A Room With No View (2009) by James Comtois

    The Ghost Hunter (2013) by Stewart Pringle

    We’ll Fix It! (2013) by Les Williams

    Leviticus: Evil Resides Within (2014) by Antonio Rimola

    Abel Hartmann's Grand-Guignol: A History of Violence (2015) by Dreamcatcher Horror Theatre







    Richard J. Hand is Professor of Media Practice and Head of Drama at the University of East Anglia. He is the co-editor of the Journal of Adaptation in Film and Performance. He has a particular interest in cross-media forms of popular culture - especially horror - and explores adaptation, transmedia and interdisciplinarity using critical and creative methodologies.

     Michael Wilson is Professor of Drama and Head of Creative Arts at Loughborough University, where he is also Director of the Storytelling Academy, a research and teaching collective in Applied Storytelling. His main research interests lie broadly within the field of popular and vernacular performance, especially in storytelling, crime drama and horror theatre.

      • 294 Pages
      • 7 Black & white illustrations