Grand Guignol was a theatre, established in an abandoned church in Pigalle in 1897, which specialised in amoral, highly naturalistic horror shows. This evolved out of some Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre, Titus Andronicus being a famous example. Its founder was Oscar Méténier, a writer and director, who wanted to produce plays exploring the darkest themes and characters of society. This developed into horror by the early 20th Century, largely thanks to director Max Maurey and playwright André de Lorde. Its two most famous actors were Paula Maxa and Benjamin Muratore, who both appeared in thousands of plays. Up to six plays would be shown in one sitting; in a small, 293-seat theatre, the effects of such onstage gore were legendary. Audience members frequently fainted, and comedies were often included in the repertoire to provide some relief.
The theatre closed in 1962. Its gradual decline in attendance has been blamed on the emotional and psychological effects of World War Two. As its last director, Charles Nonon said, "We could never equal Buchenwald. Before the war, everyone felt that what was happening onstage was impossible. Now we know that these things, and worse, are possible in reality".
Grand Guignol Online is a brilliant resource if you'd like to find out more about this extraordinary place. Very few of the plays have been translated into English, but there is 'At the Telephone', by André de Lorde; it's worth a quick read, and is not gory!