Shanghai-bound — the Grand Guignolers set sail once more

Shanghai-bound — the Grand Guignolers set sail once more

creator Debbie McMahon and her cast

Experience a magical night of theatre and gore and take a trip back in time, back to a long-forgotten era with the wild and crazy Grand Guignolers Theatre troupe. Devised by and starring Debbie McMahon, along with her talented ensemble of mimes, puppeteers, dancers, singers and actors, Absinthe, Opium and Magic: 1920s Shanghai is a theatrical event you are unlikely to forget.

From the moment you enter the theatre lobby, you are transported onto a luxury 1920s cruise ship – setting sail, with you aboard, for a spectacular destination, 1920s Shanghai. Before departure you”™ll meet mischievous clowns and perhaps have your photo taken – a souvenir of your voyage. You can sip absinthe or munch on popcorn. Upon arrival, you”™ll experience the Shanghai of yore, possibly the most debauched and decadent city that ever existed, replete with its beautiful “˜sing song”™ call-girls, brawling gangsters, silly and naughty puppets and, of course, the sinister opium dens and gambling houses”¦

So much more than a night at the theatre – Debbie McMahon and her incredibly talented ensemble troupe go all out to create a mystical aura that thoroughly envelops the audience. The evening”™s entertainment unfolds as a series of colorful vignettes, where rival gang leaders engage in slow motion fisticuffs, where puppets analyze their own existence and giant dragons and rabbits are involved in epic battles. Beneath the glittery gowns and dazzling dancers is an underbelly of darkness and gore and evil deeds.

One of the 'sing-song' girls

This marvelous production was staged earlier this year at Art/Works Theatre in Hollywood to great acclaim and a sold-out, 11-week run. When The Actor”™s Gang artistic director Tim Robbins saw the production, he invited them to stage their vivid and highly creative show at The Ivy Substation, the home of The Actor”™s Gang troupe.

Explains creator and director Debbie McMahon, “Tim really liked our show a lot and there are similarities with our company’s styles, theirs being based in commedia dell”™arte and mime also in commedia with a mixture of other physical theatre genres.

“The show is the same except I was able to tweak, clean up and sharpen things as I went through it.  I”™ve also replaced the opening number with something more madcap ridiculous – a travelogue I”™d initially written and was never able to incorporate.  This is an opportunity for us to get seen by a Westside crowd.  The Ivy Substation is also a beautiful theatre – a big old train station built in 1907, so the old-timey quality is fantastic for us. The new space is much bigger, much nicer with a great sound system, so production value has been elevated.”

Be sure to dress up in your best cocktail or vintage attire for the occasion – suits, hats, evening gowns and heels – you”™ll be glad you did.  All aboard for Shanghai!

Absinthe, Opium & Magic: 1920s Shanghai

Performances – Thurs–Sat.

Runs until – Saturday, May 29th, 2010 11 shows only!

7:45     boarding

8:00     on-board entertainment & absinthe

8:30pm    Showtime!

Tickets: $25-$30.00 – pre-purchase is highly recommended

Purchase tickets here and here

*** Special “˜pay-what-you-can”™ night – Thursday, May 13 ***

The Ivy Substation

9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232

For further information, go to their website.

Review by Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek is a Los Angeles-based arts enthusiast with twenty-five years' experience covering International Film Festivals and reviewing new Theatre, Film and Restaurants.


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