SCREEN AND SCREAM AGAIN: Grand Guignol on Film
An Evening of Blood-Curdling Horror with Live Music Accompaniment
Featuring Bryony Dixon and John Sweeney
At Guy's Hospital Chapel on Friday the 28th October 2022 - 7:00 pm

Where Gothic deals with monsters and the supernatural the Grand Guignol concerns itself with the monsters inside us and murders that are only too horribly real. Originating in the Théâtre du Grand-Guignol, a converted chapel in a small alleyway in the notorious Pigalle area of Paris, this was the theatre of short sensational plays of blood-curdling horror, the equivalent of the ‘blood tub‘ melodramas of Victorian London. These plays dealt with grisly aspects of the Parisian underworld not considered fit for mainstream theatre - prostitutes, criminals and street urchins - and were judged by how many members of the audience passed out from shock during the performance (at least two faintings per night were required for a piece to be considered a success).

Grand Guignol flourished briefly in London theatre in the 1920s, but also found its way into the silent films of that decade.

Bryony Dixon of the BFI National Archive will introduce a trio of Guignolesque delights of the silver screen, featuring an early Sweeney Todd, an episode of Fred Paul’s ‘Grand Guignol’ series and an avant garde Tell-Tale Heart, with accompanist John Sweeney at the piano.

Tickets £15 including a delightful gin cocktail and a 20% donation towards the King's Chaplaincy Trust

Bryony Dixon
Bryony has researched and written on many aspects of early and silent film and co-directs the annual British Silent Film Festival, as well as programming for a variety of film festivals and events worldwide. She has given papers at academic conferences on film and organised the first International Charles Chaplin Conference in 2005 as part of the BFI’s Chaplin Project. She has been lead curator on a number of the BFI’s recent film restorations, including Underground (1928), Wonderful London (1924), The Great White Silence (1924) and all nine surviving Hitchcock silent films. She is the author of 100 Silent Films (BFI Screen Guides, 2011).

John Sweeney
John Sweeney has played for silent films since 1990 at venues including Riverside Studios Cinema, National Film Theatre, Nottingham Broadway and the Barbican Centre. He has also worked extensively in contemporary dance, composing music for choreographers Viola Farber, Sarah Fahie and Andreja Rauch. Sweeney also works as a pianist for Rambert Dance Company and En-Knap. He can be heard regularly playing for silent film at the National Film Theatre on the South Bank in London..

Image Credit: An original advertisement for a Guignol show. Public Domain via the Bibliothèque nationale de France / Wikipedia.