IN Paris at the turn of the last century the Theatre du Grand Guignol was one of the most popular theatres in the city.
Renowned for its horror plays it shocked and excited its audiences in equal measure.
Now a play by Carl Grose pays homage to both the theatre and its principal playwright Andre de Lorde who between 1901 and 1926 wrote at least 100 plays for the theatre and collaborated with the experimental psychologist Alfred Binet to create plays about insanity.
The production now on at the Southwark Playhouse is a rip roaring piece of unadulterated toe curling and ghoulish brilliance.
Featuring plenty of fake blood, entrails and gore it weaves fact and fiction to tell the story of de Lorde and Binet, brilliantly played by Jonathan Broadbent and Matthew Pearson respectively, and how de Lorde was inspired to write the plays.
It is set in the theatre itself and features characters who were very much part of its set up including Max Maurey and actress Paula Maxa.
We see the theatre, struggling at first with small audiences, gain a reputation for horror and its "fainters" as de Lorde is encouraged to write more and more horrific pieces.
To begin with he is tormented by Edgar Allan Poe who appears in his imagination, but then he finds Binet who inspires him to write more macabre pieces.
As well as the main plot about the two men who feed off each other for their own creative and professional ends, the sub plot features a Whodunit as the characters try to uncover the identity of the mysterious Monster of Montmartre who has been on a murder spree leaving his corpses hanging from lamp posts.
The whole piece is brilliant - from the deliberate hammy acting from Robert Portal as Dr Marbois and Emily Raymond as Maxa - to the great set and fantastic props - the prop department must have had the best time devising ways to bring as much fake blood and horror to the show.
It was gruesome and hilariously funny, especially in the second half in which both the humour and gore were ramped up to glorious effect. In short it is an absolute belter of a show and shouldn't be missed.
Grand Guignol is on at the Southwark Playhouse until November 22. Tickets cost £18. Visit www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk or call the box office on 020 7407 0234.