Around the World With Mr. Punch Vol. 8 No. 2           March 2005 Page 6

Punch and Judy
Episode 2: Attack of the Clowns

reviewed by Jane Savage of Leicester
(reprinted with acknowledgements to

Punch and Judy, three little words which provide heated arguments all over the place. Or, as in the case of one American Showbiz Bear named Edgar, Punch and Judy seems like an old fashioned show in need of updating. So Edgar (“story structure theorist and script doctor”) and his ventriloquist pal Josh Darcy decide to see for themselves what Punch and Judy is all about and give it a new direction. We meet them on stage flanked by two Punch and Judy booths. With the co-operation of Professors Glyn Edwards and Martin Bridle “Episode 2: Attack of The Clowns” is created before our very eyes. Out goes old mob-capped Judy, in she comes, peroxide ponytail poking through her baseball cap, still the eternal nagging wife. Now Punch is left baby-sitting with the quins, who are the result of a brilliantly demonstrated contemporary issue. No subject is too sacred to be spared the attack of the clowns. The puppets unflinchingly expose our fears, turn them into farce and make us laugh – laugh heartily – because we know we shouldn’t.

The puppet makers (Ted Beresford, Brian and Alison Davey, Craig Denston and Mary Edwards) provide a wonderful cast of characters from Kylie on her mobile phone to the mounted policeman and his horse in riot gear. The Punch Professors kept the action going at a fast and furious pace (hands fully occupied? Try your knees!) The format of a ventriloquist, Bear and puppeteers may be difficult to accept and could do with some fine tuning, but it was a good device for presenting the argument. I will not describe any of the hilarious scenes because I hope you will see the show and laugh as much as I did. The myth, magic and mayhem are still there in abundance. The old demons are still with us in their current disguise. Punch rises to meet every challenge and, true to form, emerges triumphant. Down with Political Correctness. Long Live Punch!
[Punch and Judy]
Quote Unquote:
from Prof. Anthony Dean, Professor of Performing Arts, University College Winchester.

“The updating aspect of the show gave the audience an insight into the history of Punch and reminded us of the way in which popular entertainments always sought to comment on the issues of the day and act as a focus for popular opinion - the show linked the form of Punch and Judy to more contemporary entertainments like Spitting Image and Bremner, Bird and Fortune...and it reminds us that this form is for adults as much as for children. The show was hugely enjoyable, funny, informative and satirical in equal measures - a Punch for the new millennium.”

from Steve Tiplady: Artistic Director: Little Angel Theatre.
“A sublimely obscene – and very funny – reconnecting of Mr. Punch with his ribald roots”

Fred Greenspan's ‘Tragical Comedy of Punch & Judy’

reviewed by Prof. Will, of Boston

Prof. Fred Greenspan from New York presented his "Traditional Punch & Judy" outdoors before lunch Sunday as one of the closing acts of the N.E/Mid-Atlantic Regional Puppetry Festival held in the Summer of 04 at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, hosted by their Puppetry Arts Dept.. The show was well-received and incorporates many elements from tradition. Fred works hands in front of face in a small lazy tong booth covered with elegant patterned striped material. His usual venue for this show is museums, faires, and the like. He doesn't swazzle, preferring, as I do, to engage in wordplay and old jokes--and relevant comment. The hand-carved set of characters is based on antique Continental figures acquired a few years ago and augmented by additional characters, all with a rather genial look. To accomodate the PC problem, he disposes of Punch's stick in the opening sequence in an amusing routine which culminates behind the scenes with our old friend whacking the puppeteer, to get his favorite prop back, only to have it swallowed for good by the big green pussycat. "Squashages" become an reoccurring theme, causing stomach aches, and motivating the action. Prof. G's machine is simple with no protruding parts, whose operation is signified by a ratchet noisemaker. It serves to deal with both the Crocodile and Old Scratch.

Textural purists can still argue with Fred's rearrangement of the scene order, but his show is coherent, and for all its sanitization fits the tradition even when updating things. Joey has the extendable neck, which lets him get at the links. Hector the horse makes an appearance, but Toby has run away. The Distinguished Foreign Visitor is a magician who provides the sausage machine. The doctor has a Cherman aczent; Polly has a touch of Barbie, and the Policeman is Irish with a hint of New Joisey. The Judge releases Mr. P for community service, and the loving couple ends the show dancing around with a string of devilishly spicey squashages. Everything packs up neatly and can be carried in fiberglass golf clubs travel case and duffle, which of course has wheels. Prof. Greenspan's variations of Punch, which have cast the old trouper as the hero in several popular stories over the past several seasons have born fruit back on the old turf. With no hitting, drinking or swearing, just a few gastric indiscretions. Well done.[Punch icon]

Having the Last Laugh
“THE good burghers of Bodmin must be wishing they'd never heard of Punch and Judy. The media bashing the town council has taken over its concerns for the future of the puppet show must have felt a bit like being hit by the painful end of Mr. Punch's stick". So [The Last Laugh]said Westcountry paper The Western Daily News underneath a 'show and shame' image of the local councillors being made a laughing stock at the hands of Mr. Punch and puppeteer Reg Payn. Bodmin Town Council had become a national laughing stock when they endorsed a complaint against Punch and Judy by Bodmin Women's Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre who were upset at what they claimed were "children...laughing at a man,woman and child whose only interaction with each other is based on violence". Such was the outcry at the council's action that the naive councillors were forced to post a notice on their website saying "Contrary to recent press reports, Bodmin Town Council has NOT banned Punch & Judy." Instead they recommended "that the puppeteer be requested to perform one of his other puppet shows!" The claim not to have 'banned' Punch and Judy, merely to be telling the puppeteer to perform something else, was promptly dubbed a splendid example of gibbering council doublespeak by the Punch and Judy College of Professors who declared Bodmin henceforth twinned with Piltdown-on-Sea: the fictional backwater whose smug and shortsighted local councilors were lampooned in Tony Hancock's movie 'The Punch and Judy Man'. The College pointed out that the council's action endorsed an ignorant assessment of a many-layered moral folk tale of considerable pedigree which would earn a school student few - if any - marks in a GCSE Drama exam and which was certainly unworthy of a mature body of elected representatives who - on this evidence - probably thought that 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears' was a story about squatting or that 'Romeo and Juliet' was a play about underage sex. Also threatened was a possible makeover for the show's traditional long-suffering policeman who could in future be known as P.C. Bodmin on the grounds that you clearly can't get much more PC than Bodmin. The College undertook this without disrespect to the Bodmin Women's Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre whose legitimate concerns over ugly social ills it shared, but which it believed were only trivialized by an imagined linkage to a universal world of slapstick comedy and children's laughter.[Punch icon]

Toby's Tailpiece

NO connection with Old Red Nose sad to say – but the above headline was inspired by the following piece of news forwarded by Ray DaSilva from a financial news release dated Dec 2nd 2004. “Punch Taverns, the UK’s second-largest pub company, has sold 545 of its less profitable pubs to Pubfolio, a private special purpose vehicle, for a cash sum of £162.5m ($316m).” Well, we can all dream can’t we?[Punch icon]

Download This Issue
To save this issue of Around the World With Mr. Punch onto your computer's hard disk, download it as a PDF file from the link below. (Or you can simply print directly from your web browser.)

If you are unfamiliar with downloading, visit the Download FAQ for instructions.

Vol8No2.pdf  (829k)

Web Page Design by Freshwater Pearls Puppetry