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The Aboutface Theatre Company
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New York, NY 100xx

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Grand Guignol Effects for The Garden of Torture

Rocco van Loenen

In The Garden of Torture, a Vietnamese slave girl is tortured by stripping a piece of flesh from her back. I decided on a combination of make-up and a trick knife. The main problem with a make-up effect is that it needs to be applied before the play. Care must be taken to make it flexible enough to move with the actor’s body and to be masked from the audience’s view. I applied a prepped and flexible piece of latex skin over a pencilled-in wound on the victim’s back next to her spine. We masked the effect with a dark, flimsy blouse. In staging the scene, we had the torturer push her into position while immediately covering the make-up with his hands. The knife he used as shown on the drawing is a conventional bloodknife, but made from scratch. (This had to do with a low budget.) I hid the blood device in the somewhat enlarged handle. Given the fact that a surface wound won’t bleed gallons of blood, I used a small syringe and a piece of tube. While making the first cut, the knife left a small trickle of blood. This bloodline covered the border of the prepped latex skin and her actual flesh. After the last cut the actor peels the latex skin while spurting more blood under it, making it look very realistic. When you introduce something weird looking like an exotic knife you should let the audience get a chance to get used to it. So in one of the earlier scenes, the torturer peels the skin of a mango. I’d made an identical sharp version of the knife to be used. When the knife is seen for the human-skin-peeling the audience is already familiar with it. For a moment the audience is tricked in believing that what they see is real and will have a physical reaction to that.