Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Punch & Judy

punch & judy

1. mr punch                               

2.  judy (his wyfe)                                                                     

3. ye baby

4. toby (a dog)

5. ye devil

6. ye crocodile

7. a constable

8. a skeleton

9. ye hangman

10. joey the clown
(from london town)

Punch & Judy is a mini-drama performed with hand puppets, & always by a single person who does all the voices, plays the music and/ or operates the phonograph, and does everything necessary to the
 performance of these one-act, set pieces.

In addition, this "professor of punchology" carves the heads of the puppets, makes their bodies and their clothing, and even makes his own prosceneum arch and theatre booth. I can't think 
of any other dramatic mode in which  cooperative endeavor is not just frowned upon, but absolute anathema.

The emphasis on the lone puppet master makes the quality of these performances almost too easy to judge.

The best professor of the craft today is an old gentleman named Glynn Edwards, who is unfortunately nearly totally retired. What makes him the best is his mastery of the fundamentals; he moves from one voice to another seemingly without effort, and since one of the two conversationalists is always Punch, whose voice requires speaking thru a contraption called a swazzle, it can't be as easy as it sounds. The movements of Edwards's puppets are also graceful and natural, and I especially enjoy the little dog who introduces the show, and moves in a most expressive and joyful way.

I also immensely enjoy the work of Professors John Thursby and Rod Burnett, who, like Edwards, have mastered the elements of "the script," such as it is, so thoroughly that they can easily improvise to fit the requirements of any audience. I should mention here that to some extent, if you've seen one Punch & Judy show, you've seen 'em all. The scripted a elements follow each other not precisely in a strict order, but in a series of predictable vignettes which increase in violence as the show winds out its roughly 20-minute duration.

It's this violence, and the coarse and aggressive nature of Mr. Punch which has caused this show, performed steadily in England for over 350 years, to fall into disrepute amongst the PC university crowd. I'll say more about political correctness vs Mr Punch tomorrow, plus a bunch of disorganized (at this point) thoughts about this topic and others relating to the primitive but strangely engaging Punch & Judy shows.

However I've borrowed your eyes too long already today, and I need to go cook dinner.

1 comment:

Joseph said...

Steven Pinker, the famous cognitive scientist, says violence was much worse back in he old days. I imagine it was common such that most people were affected by it directly during their lives back 350 years ago. It might have seemed kind of utopian if an entertainment production lacked violence back then.