The 2008 Maggie Collins Lecture: Tuesday, 16 December 2008, Erin Hall, South Bank University
THIS EVENT HAS TAKEN PLACE
For this year's Maggie Collins Lecture the event moved to London South Bank University (to take advantage of a fully-equiped performance space and a raked auditorium), and was devoted to the Grand Guignol seasons as presented by producer Josť Levy at London's Little Theatre in John Adams Street between 1920 and 1922.
Firstly, Professors Richard Hand and Michael Wilson, of the Theatre and Media Drama Research Unit, University of Glamorgan, gave an introductory talk on Levy's attempts to establish a permanent Grand Guignol theatre in London. They described the repertoire of forty-three plays (played over eight seasons), the differences between the British plays and those performed by the original Grand Guignol in France, the performers (who included Sybil Thorndike, Lewis Casson and Russell Thorndike), and the problems the company had to face - not least with the Lord Chamberlain's office. On one occasion Levy cunningly avoided censorship by submitting a play through a cleric friend for performance by a parish amateur dramatic society - though this deception had its repercussions.
After a break for festive refreshment, as is now traditional at this annual event, the evening concluded with performances of adaptations of two short plays that exemplify the London theatre's repertoire: Noel Coward's little-known witty comedy and satire on sexual matters and mores The Better Half and H.F. Maltby's The Person Unknown, a post First-World-War shocker about the return from the trenches of a disfigured soldier visiting to call on the singer whose recruiting song had led him to enlist.
The performers were students from the University of Glamorgan, members of the Grand-Guignol Laboratory, a group established by Professors Hand and Wilson to explore the performance practice of Grand-Guignol theatre.
The Society would like to thank London South Bank University for making their venue available, Mr Jonathan Bantalava (Course Director Theatre Production) for facilitating the event and Martin French (Theatre Technican) for his valued assistance.
[London's Grand Guignol and the Theatre of Horror, by Richard J Hand and Michael Wilson (University of Exeter Press, 2007), was shortlisted for the STR Theatre Book Prize. The book also includes the scripts of ten plays from the London repertoire, including the previously unpublished Noel Coward play, The Better Half.]
A full text of this lecture will we available on this site in the New Year.
Current Lecture Programme
Claire Allfree on London's Grand Guignol and the Theatre of Horror
(part of the 2007 Theatre Bookprize awards ceremony report)
17th December 2008