Grand Guignol II: Return To Pain (The Senate, Friday 26th October)

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By Kelyn Luther on 27.10.2023

Grand Guignol II: Return To Pain (The Senate, Friday 26th October)

Alternata Theatre is a student company who perform shows in the style of Grand Guignol: a mixture of wit, seduction and most famously, horror. They performed their first Grand Guignol showcase last year and this year’s showcase is even better as the company establish their own unique style.

The evening comprises of two short plays- Case 52 and Mother’s Love- interspersed with original gruesome cabaret songs. Case 52, written and directed by Alia-Michelle Supron, explores the tensions of a legal office. Mark Curley and Angela Hicks play two rival lawyers; Steph Randlesome and Laurence Hussain play ambitious law students. The key to suspense is underplaying and Alia has successfully created a naturalistic environment, where the audience’s attention is captured as they wait for their fears to be confirmed. All the actors work well in what is an ensemble piece. Whilst I won’t tell you want the pay-off is, it is a testament to the work of the actors and writer/director that they can shock an audience- a rare thing in theatre.

Mother’s Love, written and directed by Josh Hinds, compliments the first play nicely. Instead of the ruthless world of the law office, we are now in the home of a well-off couple with a dark secret. Cynthia (Charlie Dampier) ignores her three-month old son and devotes all her love and attention to a doll, which she treats as her baby. Her husband Phillip (Gavin Lloyd) decides to bring in an old friend Dr Sierra (Charlie Seddon) in order to cure his wife. Josh’s play seems very much inspired by the original Grand Guignol, evoking the late nineteenth century in the manners and dialogue of the characters whilst avoiding the trap of creating a period piece. Although each actor adds something to the play whether they are in a minor or greater role, I must give credit to Charlie Dampier and Gavin Lloyd as the troubled couple. Charlie gives a believable portrayal of a woman with post-natal depression and her monologue in which she describes the pregnancy and birth of her child is intensely moving. Gavin makes the husband brutish yet also sympathetic, as we see his frustration that his wife has become alienated from him and her baby. Josh’s play is a sensitive look at a troubling subject.

Finally we come to Emily Slade, the creepy chanteuse. Emily fully embraces the Grand Guignol style, delivering her songs with wit and seduction and showing us a variety of characters, from a wife who may be a bit too devoted to her deceased husband to an actress singing of the multiple stage deaths she is forced to endure. The songs work brilliantly and I hope that the company use and build on this cabaret aspect in future productions.

Definitely come to this show and fingers crossed there’ll be a Grand Guignol III.

The next performances are on Saturday 27th at 2pm and 7:30pm


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