No other story or imagery relates to vampires in Paris as the Théâtre des Vampires found in Anne Rice’s novels “The Vampire Chronicles.” Located at Boulevard du Temple, this theatre was founded by legendary French vampire Lestat de Lioncourt, and taken over by new patriarch Armand. The theatre itself is fictional yet some say the inspiration comes from the Théâtre Grande Guingol.
However, Anne claims she did not know of this until after writing her novels. Within the fictional théâtre, vampires use their “dark gifts” and often kill and drink the blood of victims in front of an audience. Because the audience thinks this is an illusory stage trick, they leave delighted and entertained, not realizing what they have truly seen.
The theatre is first introduced in the book “Interview with a Vampire” where Louis and Claudia encounter the troupe and attend a performance. Anne later expanded the story in her second book “The Vampire Lestat”, in which Lestat is employed as an actor at the theatre during his mortal years. Once he is transformed into a vampire, he purchases the theatre. He discovers a few vampires living together as a coven in the catacombs below Cemetery of the Innocents (which in reality has no catacombs beneath it) and brings them into the theatre to protect them from their leader Armand.
You can see this theatre alive in the 1994 film “Interview with the Vampire,” based on Anne’s novel, starring Tom Cruise as Lestat and Brat http://www.eta-i.org/valium.html Pitt as Louis. After escaping New Orleans and traveling around Europe to find others like themselves Louis and Claudia encounter the coven and witness a performance. Armand falls in love with Louis and destroys Claudia, which prompts a heartbroken Louis to set fire to the theatre and destroy the coven. Today there is a vampire-metal band called Théâtre des Vampires from Rome Italy, whose namesake is taken from the theatre. But is it possible that this grisly, fictional theater has a real-life counterpart?
Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol was founded in the mid 1890’s and held performances until the late 1960’s. The Grand-Guignol was famous for its ‘naturalistic’ horror plays, using characters and situations as one might find in real life, rather than ghosts, monsters and damsels. These plays were of a violent, horrific nature, and employed such gory special effects that many theatergoers suspected the acts might be real. It was not uncommon for an audience member to vomit in response to the violent acts. Conversely, some audience members became so sexually aroused that the theater began making boxes available to rent for lusty encounters during the performance. Whether the link between these two theaters is coincidental or purposeful, one thing is certain; people are fascinated by the macabre and the horrific.
Currently, Théâtre 347 (for its 347 places) which from 2004 is the International Visual Theatre.