On Saturday night, Sean, Norman, Curtis and I took in a fantastic show at the Art/Works Theatre. A Grand Guignol Children's Show* (*not for children) is the sort of theatre that rarely comes along, at least in my world, and it reassures me that Los Angeles is about far more than the movie biz. Live theatre should always be this entertaining.
I assume most of my vast readership is familiar with the original Grand Guignol. For those few of you who aren't (and/or are too lazy to click the link), the Grand Guignol of Paris was the shock entertainment of the early twentieth century: the theatre's programming consisted of short plays featuring all sorts of naughty elements, particularly sexuality and explicit gore. This new production is a sort of tamed version of that original conceit, with graphic retellings of familiar fairy tales. "Little Red Riding Hood" features disembowling and interspecies sexual attraction (not to mention a funny/sexy tango). "The Ugly Duckling" is a physically demanding dance between rival gangs of ducks and swans. "Rapunzel," my favorite part of the show, was performed with finger puppets and was both sexually explicit and bloody -- Sean, in fact, was nearly hit by spurting blood at the story's, er, climax. I laughed so hard during "Rapunzel" that I started crying. The final act, "Hansel and Gretel," went on just a bit too long, but rewarded the audience with a gore-soaked finale.
Holding everything together was a puppet show starring Guignol, a beloved French puppet celebrating his 200th birthday this year, and Punch, the vile and violent English puppet usually paired with "pal" Judy. We also got to try absinthe for the first time, as well as watch a demonstration of its preparation, and the cast served the entire audience birthday cake when the show was over.
Curtis and Sean with Debbie McMahon, the show's writer and director, after the performance. The audience was encouraged to come dressed in cocktail, birthday, or 1920s/30s attire, and we did our best to oblige.
The cast portraits in the lobby. Normally I don't pay much attention to stuff like this, but attention to every detail was the hallmark of this show: the cast portraits were all beautiful sepia-toned head shots of the cast (including Gretel's teddy bear in the second picture) in period clothes, lit by candles.
Why am I going on about A Grand Guignol Children's Show? Because it's still playing! If you're in L.A. between now and January 10th, I strongly urge you to try to catch a performance. Really, who can resist a show with the tagline, "Children: The Other White Meat"?