The Grand Guignol was a 20th century Parisian theatre that became famous for its graphic horror shows. Dave Bloustien borrows the concepts and aesthetics of Grand Guignol to present a show that mixes comedy, puppetry, theatre and storytelling into a rich, fascinating whole.
Hansel and Gretel, lost puppet tourists from Adelaide, stumble into a bizarre theatre where a series of odd characters tell them increasingly strange stories. Egyptologist Professor Mahmoud tells the story of the curse of Tutankhamen’s penis; ALP MP Noel Carradine presents the conspiracy of Canberra’s faceless men; ‘Dave Bloustien’ (this may be a pseudonym) describes the horror of the locally brewed coffee, and travelling salesman Tupperware Jack channels Tom Waits to push for one last sale.
Dave has a writer’s instinct for storytelling and a performer’s gift for portraying different characters. He uses all his skills to create a wonderful mix of language and wordplay, a vehicle not just for stories but for the ways they can be crafted and communicated. He spends most of the show in-character, even when working with his creepy little Hansel and Gretel puppets, emerging only in the middle to deliver some jokes straight to the audience – but even that turns into a story, so subtly you never notice the change until afterwards.
Horrible comedy is easy; comedic horror is harder to pull off. Grand Guignol is a complex show that mixes these two different genres into a satisfying, well-crafted experience. With its literary emphasis and relative lack of direct jokes, it’s not a show that every MICF punter is going to click with. But if you like storytelling, theatre or humour that sneaks up on you, get down to Trades Hall on the double to see Dave Bloustein’s cabaret of the damned before it’s too late.
Dave Bloustien’s Grand Guignol is on at the Trades Hall, 7:30pm Tues – Sat, 6:30pm Sun until April 7th.