Around the World With Mr. Punch Vol. 8 No. 2           March 2005 Page 4

The March Of Time
1945 American Presidential Election

The following archive item is reprinted from a 1945 publication: The Seventeenth Wartime Bulletin of The British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild (edited by Arthur. E. Peterson) and was contributed by Ray DaSilva. The photographs mentioned in it refer to the original newspaper article and, regrettably, were outside the scope of reproduction in the British magazine.

IT is not inappropriate at the moment to mention how our American friends have made use of Punch for political purposes. As recently as last October the New York Tribune featured an article on "Puppet Show Tours City to Get You Out to Vote." There were two illustrations of the characters used in Punch and Judy, and the show had a well-built fit-up. Perhaps I had better let the extract speak for itself. The portions in brackets are intended to be explanatory and did not, of course, appear in the original article. The material came form our good friend, W. R. Anderson, of Brighton, the well-known model theatre enthusiast, to whom I am indebted.

"The New York City League of Women Voters, drama-tizing its efforts to get out a large and intelligent vote [for the Presidential election] is touring the city with a political puppet show. Although the league is non-partisan and endorses no candidates, it is unalterably opposed to the kind of politician portrayed in the puppet show by Hank, a back-slapping two-faced politician of the graft and favor school. The purpose of the play " Puppet Voting " is " to make people think about the election, and to make them weigh the acts and records of the candidates instead of their promises and speeches." [Hank delivers.a typical blustering, wheedling speech, but his false face falls off just before its end, and he is revealed as a scoundrel].

"The league puppet show was organised and directed by Catherine Reighard, a league member and instructor in English at New York University, where she is director of the Puppet Workshop. This is the first time, as far as Miss Reighard knows, that puppets have been used in this country for political purposes." [The show, which lasted for fifteen minutes,was played in various settlements, schools and libraries. One of the illustrations shows Hank haranguing a typical group of citizens in the street, with others looking out of a window at the back ; the other depicts two characters, Paul the Pilot, and Mrs. G. I. Joe, who is reading to him a heavily censored letter from her husband overseas urging her to vote.]

The Doodle Bugs

The front cover of the same newsletter showed a picture of a group of children aged 14 and under in London’s East End who – under the company name of the Doodle Bugs - said, in true Hollywood style, ‘why don’t we put on the show right here?’ The words Punch and Judy may just be seen painted on the top of the puppet stage on the right.

DURING the time London was experiencing the terror of doodle-bugs and V.2's, one of the many anxieties of mothers of young children was how to keep them amused and where to find them in case the alert sounded or a sudden emergency arose. To some extent this was solved by a group of youngsters in that savagely blitzed area of Devons Row, Bow, London, E., who, under the direction of two twelve year old boys, organised and successfully produced shows that included songs and dances, "Maria Marten, or the Murder at the Red Barn," written and produced by George Cooper (12 years old), he, of course being the "leading man" ; "Cinderella and the Ugly Sisters"; "Red Riding Hood"; and a Punch and Judy Show.

[Wartime Kids]The "auditorium " held about fifty at a pinch, with "gate-crashers" along the fence. Admission was a halfpenny, half of which was donated to the funds of the Red Cross. Three performances a week were given and there was a cast of seven. The Punch outfit was made out of material from the blitzed neighbourhood and was made by a boy called John Ward, the only one of the children above school age.

The photograph illustrating this article, as well as a copy of the Church monthly, from which these particulars have been taken, were kindly loaned by the Rev. J. W. Fitkin, Rector of All Hallows, Devons Row, Bow, E.3, who interested himself in the matter and to whom our thanks are due.[Punch icon]

Red-Nosed Miscellany

Golden Slapstick Award

THE Punch and Judy College of Professors recently made their own small award to founding member John Styles to mark his receipt of the MBE. The College award was in the form of a mounted certificate tastefully encircled by golden sausages, surmounted by a Golden Slapstick bearing his name. The wording on the certificate read as follows:

In recognition of his outstanding achievement in being honoured by Her Majesty the Queen the celebrated Punch performer Professor John Styles MBE has been awarded the acclaimed Gleaming Golden Slapstick from his colleagues in The Punch and Judy College of Professors. This more humble honour is to express the respect of his fellow Professors and their appreciation of the accolade he has brought to the whole Punch and Judy tradition. It also serves as a timely reminder from MR. PUNCH himself that he is – of course – always on the lookout for new establishment targets to practice his aim on.

Lore and Disorder

IN an outbreak of seasonal goodwill The Punch and Judy Fellowship and The Punch and Judy College of Professors are pleased to announce jointly that the community of ‘Profs’ has minted a new piece of traditional lore effective henceforth. They wish to let it be known that to see 2004 out with a collective and responsive raspberry to those petty minded individuals who increasingly burden the art form with restrictions, the Punch and Judy Professors of the United Kingdom declare the red stripe in the traditional red and white stripe canvas roundings of their booths to be dedicated as a perpetual symbol of the creeping red tape of bureaucracy – and of Mr. Punch’s eternal disrespect for those jacks-in-office responsible for it.

For the benefit of those outside the UK: 'Red Tape' is the commonly understood term to mean petty Government rules and regulations. It stems from the days when such official legal documents were parchment scrolls literally tied with red tape. The decision behind this act of symbolism stems from the current regulations that Punch Profs - and other performers – find themselves encumbered with. These include the need to provide evidence of Public Liability Insurance, the need to complete Risk Assessment paperwork to comply with Health and Safety Regulations, the need for any mains electricity PA system to carry a current Portable Appliance Test certificate, the need to provide an Enhanced Criminal Record Disclosure certificate to prove eligibility for working with children and – in the pipeline – the requirement to perform only on appropriately licensed ground. (Non-transferable licenses to be purchased six weeks in advance of performance.) The majority of this bureaucracy has arisen since the start of the 21st Century. Punch & Judy hasn’t been singled out for special treatment. Public entertainment as a whole is affected.

Scholarship and Forgery

THE celebrated script of Punch and Judy 'transcribed' by John Payne Collier from a show by Giovanni Piccini and illustrated by George Cruikshank has an iconic role in Punch and Judy lore. It is always worth remembering that Payne Collier went on to have a scholarly career marred by his forgery of original sources. A recent book - Scholarship and forgery in the 19th Century. (Arthur Freeman & Janet Ing Freeman. Yale. £100. 0 300 09661 5) – was reviewed by Frank Kermode in London Review of Books of 16 Dec 2004 from which the following passage is taken.

"The authors certify as Colliers 'earliest essay in deception' a fictive account of a Punch and Judy show written for the times from Margate; the deception lies not in the essay itself but in Collier’s citing it 16 years later as a factual contribution to the literature of the subject – on which, however, we’re told he remains a standard authority. (Emphasis added, Ed.) But he could not let the truth alone. His fabrications ‘usually brief and often scattered amidst authentic testimony or text….can be far more difficult to identify than large-scale imposture, and are more likely to corrupt or distort.'"[Punch icon]

Web Page Design by Freshwater Pearls Puppetry