Saturday, March 15, 2003
TRADITIONAL BEACH ENTERTAINMENT
THE PUNCH AND JUDY SHOW
At a time when people are considering their international loyalties it is worth remembering the things that the Old and the New World have in common at grass roots level; the ability to laugh together and enjoy and not take life or ourselves too seriously now and again. These traditions have shared roots wherever you live.Punch and Judy puppet shows have ancient origins; most cultures have in their history a comic Lord of Misrule.
Traditionally, in Medieval Europe, raucous Christmas celebrations often included this temporary investiture of this anarchical fun figure. We get peasants drawing lots and the winner given a paper crown and thus licensed to behave how he pleased for that day to mock those who lorded it over them very probably. That is possibly the origin, too, of a tradition still observed in France, the gallette de roi (King's cake or tart )where a flat sweet cake with a gold band around it and a trinket or small coin baked within the mix, is divided between family members and eaten. The person who finds the trinket in their slice gets to take the gold band from around the gallette and it is then used to invest them as 'king' for the day.
In Britain, Mr Punch, the beak-nosed protagonist in these traditional beach puppet shows, so popular in Victorian times, is in that anarchical mould and has his roots in sixteenth century Italian comedy, from whence our pantomime theatre also originated. I guess all situation comedies, here and elsewhere, have their roots in what was once one of the few innocent leisure distractions for the common man.
The shows I remember on the beach had Mr. Punch with a ridiculous high-pitched, guttural voice, courtesy of a device lodged in the one-man-show puppeteer's mouth. The device is called a swizzle and the instructions for making one are a closely guarded secret. Judy is Punch's long-suffering puppet wife and he would regularly crack her over the head with his 'slap stick', (hence slapstick comedy) chanting his catch phrase,"Thats the way to do it!" During the show a huge wooden jawed crocodile would appear, and a huge string of prop sausages.
There were strong elements of the traditional pantomime in the show, requiring interactive responses from the audience. Not just the kids shout back! Mr Punch would encourage the responses to be repeated louder and louder to enhance participation and amusement. When warned of the Crocodile. (What crocodile?) "Behind you", would yell the kids. "Oh no it isn't", shouts Mr. Punch, "Oh yes it is!" the audience dutifully shouts in reply.
The antagonist is the authority figure, the Policeman or Constable, who is rather pompous and self-assured but fails miserably to get Mr. Punch to abide by the conventional rules much to the pleasure of the audience. And inevitably Mr Punch gives him a crack or two with his slapstick. For more details and a full transcript of the traditional dialogues from one of the shows, click on this picture link.
This is a wonderful and comprehensive web site packed with fascinating information, extensive references and links. For another source of background information and further links try this Guardian newspaper article link by clicking this word, GUARDIAN
For a website maintained by Punch and Judy man, Des Turner, click on his picture here.
johncoxon 8:51 PM - [Link] - Comments ()
WHAT IS IT THIS TIME?
This is the location of my happy summer days but also gratuitous traditional childhood violence that our parents invited us to watch when I was very young.
Click on the image to find out what is one of the last remaining examples of this genre from Victorian England.
johncoxon 5:27 PM - [Link] - Comments ()