Theatre of the Damned Blog

News, reviews and information on all things horror.
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Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Fredrick Witney – A forgotten legend of the Grand Guignol

Followers and enthusiasts of the Grand Guignol will know the names of Oscar Méténier, who founded the great Parisian theatre in 1894, and of Max Maurey who brought horror to the fore of its repertoire and led it through great prosperity in the early 20th century. They may know of André de Lorde, the unassuming librarian who wrote so many of its greatest dramas, and of Paula Maxa, the original scream-queen, who died a thousand violent deaths before Janet Leigh even stepped into the shower. The London Grand Guignol was always the poor cousin of its French counterpart, but even Jose Levy, who ran its eight series at the Little Theatre in the Strand from 1920-22, was awarded the Legion of Honour for his work, and Richard Hand and Michael Wilson’s wonderful book London’s Grand Guignol and the Theatre of Horror has at last given his contribution the academic acclaim it deserves. Not so Fredrick Witney, whose involvement in the Grand Guignol has been reduced to a mere footnote in theatrical history. I’d like to use this, the inaugural article on our fledgling company’s blog, to take some time to examine and consider the writing of a man who I consider to be one of the Grand Guignol’s finest playwrights. Halloween is almost upon us, and I’m in the mood for resurrecting a true horror legend from his grave.