Theatre du Grind Guignol - A Triple Feature

Allen Hall Theatre, University of Otago, Dunedin

23/02/2012 - 25/02/2012

Production Details

In the early years of the 20th Century at the end of a dark, seedy alley in France was the Grand
Guignol – a theatre where the most dark, twisted, and violent acts were committed on the stage,
quenching a generation’s thirst for all that was bloody and horrific.
Now in the 21st Century, Theatre du Grind Guignol are proud to resurrect this theatre of
shock and horror – but with a twist. The original Grand Guignol was a precursor to the Slasher
and Grindhouse cinema of the 1970s and 1980s, cinema that also explored the hidden horrors
and depravity of the human condition.

At the Theatre du Grind Guignol audiences will be treated three unique plays that will bring
the two traditions together at last, by appropriating the classic Grand Guignol style and
infusing it with the stylistic qualities of 1970s and 1980s slasher film of the Grindhouse.
LA CASA DEL DIABLO, and FIRENZE are based on scripts originally performed at the Grand
Guignol while the third, THE TRAMP, is the latest piece from award winning playwright Paul

Starring the finest young talent in Dunedin including graduates from the Theatre Studies
Programme at the University of Otago, the Grind Guignol is an event not to be missed.
Theatre du Grind Guignol was made possible with the Division of Humanities Summer
Scholarship programme and the Theatre Studies Programme at the University of Otago, from
which both Alex Wilson and Ben Blakely have recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts

La Casa del Diablo
What does pure evil feast upon?
Deep in the heart of Mexico, tucked away in a luxurious mansion, lives Richard. He is a suave
but dangerous man who has proven he can get whatever he wants by any means necessary. His
guests for the evening are aware of his reputation, but will they be able to survive a night with el
Diablo of the borderlands?!
In a madhouse… nothing makes sense.
Young Luisa is about to be released from an insane asylum in which nuns are the caretakers
and religion reigns supreme. But when the lights go out nothing protects Luisa from the two
madwomen intent on making her remaining stay a hellish torment. When she confides in her
doctor, her sanity is questioned. Will Luisa get the help she needs before it’s too late?

The Tramp
In the woods no one can hear you scream.
Four teenagers are alone in the wild New Zealand bush. What was planned as a relaxing
weekend quickly turns into 48 hours of unimaginable terror, as they start disappearing one by
one. The latest horror from the pen of 2009 Bruce Mason Playwriting Award recipient and
2010 Robert Lord Fellow, Paul Rothwell. After seeing THE TRAMP – you will never want to
leave civilisation again

For more information please contact:
Alex Wilson (Co-Director) Ben Blakely (Co-Director) 027 306 5698 027 307 1218

Ticket Bookings can be made through Otago University Theatre Studies Programme:

Cast : Hana Aoake, Jerome Cousins, Abby Howells, Sam Irwin, Kajsa Louw, Caitlin McNaughton
With Josh Smythe , Elsa May

Lighting / Sound Design - James Caley
Sound Operation - Alex Wilson
Stage Manager - Nylla Tamati

Nothing bad has happened here – it doesn’t even happen once

Review by Hannah Molloy 24th Feb 2012

In the early years of the 21st century, it was a dark and rainy night. The door was locked, and determined hammering drew forth only a solitary figure.

The stage was well and truly set for the Theatre du Grind Guignol, even before we got in the door. The Allen Hall Theatre on a rainy Dunedin night isn’t entirely welcoming and could almost be called sinister, particularly when one is early and the doors haven’t been opened yet.

The small but very enthusiastic audience arrived on time and proceeded to thoroughly enjoy the three plays, Firenze, La Casa du Diablo and The Tramp. The audience was almost as entertaining – and horrifying? – to watch and listen to as the action on stage. A sense of pantomime came from the entirely free manner in which it applauded, hissed, laughed and squealed at regular moments, usually the right ones.

In such an intimate crowd, it is difficult not to be distracted by the watchers but the cast held its own. The acting was easily as good as any on the stage of Dunedin’s bigger theatres and Hana Aoake, Abby Howells, Kajsa Louw, Dianne Pulham, Jerome Cousins, Caitlin McNaughton, Sam Irwin and Hadley Taylor, with guest appearances by Elsa May and Josh Smythe, were a completely satisfying cast.

A combination of the Grand Guignol, a 20th century theatre in back alley Paris where audiences could sate their appetites for horror and depravity and frequented by such as Anais Nin, and the slasher and grindhouse movies of the 70s and 80s, the Theatre du Grind Guignol seemed to sate this audience’s desire for the correction of imbalanced power, and for the quick dose of terror offered by a true kiwi slasher.

Firenze, based on Un Crime dans une Maison de Fous, a play originally shown at the Grand Guignol, is a dark commentary about the misery endured in turn of the previous century asylums run by vengeful Catholic nuns but overseen by doctors with more than just medicine on their minds. Told in red light and manic mutterings of prayer and madness, the Maretty sisters are divinely deranged, one like a demented kitten and the other like a bitch in heat, while poor Luisa can only dream of a life of sanity. The appreciative gasps and laughter from the audience were often echoed back by mocking laughter from the stage, strengthening the sense of pantomime. The end was far and away the best bit and an unexpected twist.

La Casa de Diablo, also based on a Grand Guignol original, Le Baiser dans la nuit, was disturbing, as, with nonchalant ease, it unfolded the casual cruelty – for a purpose mind you – that is humanly possible and told with such relish by the wealthy Messers Rich and Arnold. Revenge, often served cold, was dealt hot and bloody as Isabella revealed her identity. The men were oily and menacing, the whores ingratiating and surprisingly vicious. The butler really made this one though, with his understated but acerbic comments and punctual generosity with the liquor.

The Tramp is a quintessential New Zealand play written by Paul Rothwell, where four youths go tramping and very bad things happen to them. The audience screamed louder than the cast at the crucial moment and the shrieks of laughter that followed almost drowned out the closing scene – not necessarily a bad thing as it wound up very quickly. Once everyone was dead, there really wasn’t much more to be said after all and I’m not sure anything could top the screams from the second row anyway.

Power was turned on its head, the truly bad got their comeuppance while the newly bad basked in their revenge and those kiwi teens learned once again, but too late, not to go out alone. The audience was left sated and pleased it had ventured out into the dreary rain – this really wasn’t a play you could go to on a balmy summer’s night…


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