“That’s the way the way to do it” if you hear these words spoken with a very squeaky voice there’s a good chance that you’ll find a Punch and Judy show being played out somewhere close to you. As a child it was one of my great delights everyday on the beach.
Punch and Judy is a glove puppet show performed inside a Booth made out of stripy material, most beaches used to have one of the shows somewhere on the beach and usually it was my first job on arriving at the seaside as a yougster to find out the location of the show. There would be 3 or 4 performances of the same or a similar story each day and a large bill board with a clock on it would announce the time of the next show.
Mr Punch can be traced back to the 17th century when on May 9th 1662 Samuel Pepys noted in his diary that he saw an Italian puppet play at Covent Garden, (it is likely this was a marionette puppet show and the puppets were operated by strings). The show was performed by Signor Pietro Gimonde (popularly known as Signor Bologna) and featured a character called Pulchinello. Pepys took his wife to see the show a couple of weeks later and Charles II was in the audience later that year.
At first the hook nosed, hunchback, shrill voice puppet was known as Pulchinello, just as in his native Italy, and his wife was called Joan, but eventually he became known as Mr Punch and her name changed to Judy. In the 18th century these puppets changed from marionettes to glove puppets. As seaside holidays became more popular in the late Victorian times, thanks to the new bank holidays Punch and Judy shows began to appear in all the new seaside resorts.
Punch & Judy shows have stayed popular down the centuries because they have been kept topical. In wartime, Punch would fight and beat Hitler. In more recent times, Tony Blair, has even made an appearance! Mr Punch has been the inspiration to many. He has had an opera written for him and even the long running humorous magazine borrowed its name from Punch. Many authors, film makers and writers have utilised the characters of Punch & Judy shows. Perhaps the most famous being Tony Hancock's 1960's film, The Punch and Judy man.
Punch and Judy shows cannot be classed as PC in any shape or form, they include a cruel wife beating husband and an equally cruel wife and a neglected baby, a policeman who hits people with a stick and a crocodile that also get beaten.
The main characters in the show often include
Judy is wife
Toby the dog
A crocodile and sometimes a hangman.
The story starts with Mr Punch and his wife who will often ask him to look after the baby, Judy will often as the audience to shout her if Mr Punch harms the baby, which he always does. The one thing that makes this show so popular is the audience participation, throughout the performance the boys and girls can be heard shouting he’s behind you and other such phrases. Judy will hit Mr Punch with a big stick and will then get Mr Punch to do the same to Judy, the policeman will turn up and there’s more violence. Judy will then get Mr Punch to look after the sausages which is generally the cue for the Crocodile to appear and more violance. It would seem a little strange to understand why it is so popular with all the violance going on, we all like to bit of mischief and if we look at slapstick (which comes from the large stick Mr Punch carries around with him) whether it be a circus clown a sketch by Morecambe and Wise or an old Laurel and Hardy movie they all contain the same kind of violance to each other.
Punch and Judy basically is a children’s show but as I believe we are all children in an adult body the shows are as popular with adults as with children. Unfortunately Punch and Judy shows are less frequent on the beach these days, they urn more by doing private birthday shows or at fetes, maybe this is because the public is less generous in giving in the hat than they used to be. I would love to see the return of the Punch and Judy show to the seaside beach or park and hope that it happens one day.
If you want to see clips of a typical P&J show go here http://www.thepjf.com/video_clips.html