Theatre of the Damned Blog

News, reviews and information on all things horror.
For more information on Theatre of the Damned and the London Grand Guignol, visit

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Theatre of Death, Cinema of Blood - the Grand Guignol's cinematic legacy

The Grand Guignol in all but name - Theatre of Death (1967)

In the summer of 1962 cinema-goers could catch Herbert Lom gurning from the wings as he pitched his cunning against Michael Gough's pompous fraud Lord D'Arcy in Hammer's retread of The Phantom of the Opera, where he literally brings the house down with the aid of an embittered dwarf. By the end of the year it would be Hammer themselves drawing the curtain on another theatre, as in November the great Théâtre du Grand-Guignol of Paris closed its doors for the final time. That's the conventional narrative anyway, that the full-blooded horrors and the bodice-stretching bosoms on display in the likes of The Curse of Frankenstein and The Brides of Dracula offered something far more appealing and titillating than anything you could catch down the rue Chaptal. As Grande Dame of Grand Guignol scholarship Agnès Pierron notes, the downfall of the theatre 'coincides with the ascendancy of the Hammer film'. Graphic bloodshed and gore had found its way into cinema, and the French theatre had become a quaint curiosity.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Secrets and Science of Fake Blood

You don’t actually need all this kit, but seriously, who cooks blood in Tefal?
A large part of the mystique surrounding the original Paris Grand Guignol lay in the blood effects used, the ‘secret’ recipe becoming as much of a marketing gimmick as KFC’s 11 secret herbs and spices. An otherwise irreverent 1947 Time magazine article writes that ‘The theater has a secret recipe for blood; when the stuff cools it coagulates and makes scabs’. Professor Mel Gordon, specialist in the Grand Guignol, describes the mixture as heated carmine and glycerine in equal proportions; made of boiled, crushed scale insects, carmine seems more fittingly macabre than glycerine, which at the time was generally administered as a cough syrup. This blood recipe has the advantage of being liquid when warm, but seeming to congeal as it cools – like honey, glycerine is thick and sticky, but thin when melted. For the Grand Guignol in its declining years, though, the carmine stains became increasingly irksome to remove; Gordon hypothesizes that as money got tight ‘Large body wounds were limited to women (smaller costumes to clean) and head wounds for men (less hair to clean)’. In fact, there are very few body wounds in the original plays of the Grand Guignol, perhaps as much because of the emotive nature of facial disfigurement as of the excessively sticky recipe, guaranteed to ruin suiting fabric.

Monday, 26 September 2011

To Troma - an appreciation

- In which I ramble on about some childhood heroes and attempt to convince you that the Toxic Avenger is a beacon of inspiration for fringe theatre -


Around the turn of the millenium if you stayed up late enough on a weekend night and kept your eyes glued to Channel 4, something pretty magical happened. After Friends and Frasier were long finished, and they'd shown South Park and maybe an old re-run of Eurotrash, the face of respectable grown-up television vanished altogether, and for a few strange and wild hours the lunatics took over the asylum. Like a pirate broadcast hijacking the airwaves, green waves of static and distortion spilled back and forth and the words 'DO NOT SLEEP' flickered disconcertingly across the screen. They called it 4 Later, and it was absolutely psychotic. It was also one of the coolest things ever.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Translating Grand Guignol

You'll need one of these.

By a happy coincidence, the world’s greatest ever theatre of horror worked in the language which I studied at university, so when Theatre of the Damned stage a new Grand Guignol show, most of the work of translation falls to me (though Sam and Alice are both strong French speakers too, and have contributed some brilliant work of their own).

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Blogging the London Horror Festival

We're scared. Properly quite scared.

Edit: apparently some of you got the impression from the below that there was actually some catastrophic problem of some kind that we didn't know how to deal with. Um, no. If there was, I'd be fixing it, not writing light-hearted blog posts about it. There's loads still to do - enough that the prospect provides the faint adrenaline boost of controlled nerves, but we have a great team working on this and we know how it's going to get done. Calm down, dear.

Exactly one month from tomorrow, the London Horror Festival will open. That is a slightly terrifying prospect – and not just in the way it should be. Between now and then, we have to make sure that ten other companies’ shows can slot into the Courtyard smoothly, organise a film screening and a rock concert, and make sure that our own show – Revenge of the Grand Guignol – is as spine-tinglingly, gut-wrenchingly awesome as it can possibly be.

There are scripts to polish up, a box set to build, complicated effects to prepare, and the real heart of the production - countless hours of rehearsal time, which I'm just itching to get on to. We have to go out to Kent and dig a hole in a field, and we have to turn my room into a place that looks like a girl might conceivably live in it. Last night, I had to listen to the Archers for the first time in my life, so that I could do an impression of someone called Kenton, while legend, Archers-enthusiast and part-time Monster Hunter Matt Woodcock voiced his brother David and human swiss army knife Liam Welton tried to work out how to make a kitchen/living room in Peckham sound like a BBC recording studio posing as Home Farm. And I doubt that's even the silliest thing I'll do this week.

Between now and opening night, Stewart and I will be posting here every day, and we’ll be hosting guest posts from other people taking part in the Festival from time to time too. Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about translating horror theatre. On Monday, Stew will be posting an article about the amazing work of legendary Troma director Lloyd Kaufman and its significance for us and for the emerging horror theatre scene. Lloyd is presenting a special screening of Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead as part of the Festival on Tuesday 1st November, and I really can’t tell you how excited we are about meeting one of our all-time heroes.

So, if you want to read about what it’s like to produce a month-long independent theatre festival, or stage a Grand Guignol show on the London Fringe, or just for some strange reason happen to be interested in hearing the two of us blather on about horror and Grand Guignol, keep checking back here. And we want to know what you think too, so post, damnit, post!

- Tom Richards

Friday, 23 September 2011

Fake your own death with Theatre of the Damned

Amateurish, Mr. de Jesus.

Fallen for the woman you’ve been hired to kill? Need to convince your employer that you’re still a cold-blooded assassin, not a fluffy loved-up puppy?

Two bottles of ketchup and a machete under the arm aren’t going to cut it.

For a range of tailored mortality simulations at prices to suit your pocket, call Theatre of the Damned today. Our expert gore technicians have years of experience in gunshots, stabbings, hanging, acid burns, eye removal, electrocution, decapitation, dismemberment and much, much more.

Not convinced? Why not visit our display at the 2011 London Horror Festival and try our wares for yourself?

Theatre of the Damned – for a death that will last you the rest of your life.

Terms and conditions apply. Blood not included. Prosthetics sold separately.