|Around the World With Mr. Punch||Vol. 8 No. 2 March 2005||Page 5|
Punch & Judy Overseas - and the Language of Puppetry
by Dan Bishop
'Prof' Dan Bishop, whose Mr. Punch carries a small passport, has played in numerous countries and believes it imperative that the audience participation element of the Punch and Judy Show should be carried out in the host language of the country visited. Here he makes his case.
GLYN Edwards (a fellow member of the Punch & Judy College of Professors) has written recently in British UNIMA's 'Puppet Notebook' about his impressions of a recent Italian puppet festival and his views - amongst other things - on performing traditional Punch & Judy overseas. He also published an extract from this article in the online journal 'Around the World With Mr. Punch', plus an additional final paragraph regarding performing in other English speaking countries.
(I had also read Tony's article about some performances he gave in Slovenia some months ago, and - although his is definitely not my approach to touring overseas with Punch - I privately concluded that we are all at liberty to present our shows as we think best, and promptly forgot all about it. Each to their own, as they say.)
Through examination of its early roots in Commedia and the English Fool, and careful study of the various extant scripts we have available to us, it is clear that - as it has progressed through the centuries - the style and language in the performance of Punch & Judy has necessarily undergone various changes, one of which - as Glyn rightly points out - is reflected through "echoes of music hall and pantomime" (this in the English understanding of the term) and which are still very much in evidence in current times.
From my very first days with Mr Punch, I have always known there's an unfathomable depth to his world - open to all of us. But then, there's always a danger of getting too serious about it. Gemma is often telling me: "It's only a Punch & Judy show !"
There have been certain moments when, suddenly, the rapport developing between the puppets and the spectators was not simply a translation into another language. Certain occasions and places: a particular square in Ljubljana, a park in Magdeburg; a spot by the Danube in Budapest; in the Piazza Pisacane, in Cervia
A monolinguist replies: Dans emphasis on the traditional audience participation we are all used to is timely. We may be used to it now but its not a feature of any of the Victorian scripts. My original thinking out loud was inspired by the contrast between some fast, funny and universally comprehensible traditional puppetry which transcended the language barrier and some verbose, modern intellectual puppetry in which language was a millstone round the neck of the performance. Given that real Punch scripts usually look pretty dead on the page (whilst the ones that read well on the page look pretty wordy from a performers viewpoint) and given too that the call and response element of modern performance practice has only grown alongside Mr. Punchs career as a childrens entertainer, my true interest lies in the basic role of language in the Punch show. How performers use it to shape their audiences expectations and then subvert them (or not), and how they use it to play games with them beyond basic peek-a-boo and Hi-de-hi, is a topic I hope to look into in a future issue (with readers help!). How performers then attempt to achieve this in one or more other languages is really a footnote to this one in which there are probably as many viewpoints as there are performers.
The baseball world refers to weaker, fast, slap hitters as Punch and Judy hitters. Where does this come from? From Punchlines
More law lore
Further to items concerning Punch and the Law. In 1852 Albert Smith wrote: "We cannot, however, disguise the meloncholy fact, that Punch is on the decline. It is true that he escaped the notice of the Metropolitan Police Act, and, whilst the dogs were emancipated from the trucks, he was permitted to bully and tease the hapless Toby to his heart's content; still, we fear his glories are departing." This raises a couple of points, firstly the fact that Punchmen honestly believed that the law requiring the pavement to be kept clear did not apply to them by virtue of some ancient custom sanctioned by the Crown; secondly, the influence of animal welfare groups on the decline of the live dog Toby (whose 'rights' are protected by law now!). Also in the early 19th century Horatio Smith wrote:
I am a zoologist currently writing a book on crocodiles. I am writing a chapter about crocodiles in art at the moment. I was wondering if you could give me any info on the crocodile in Punch and Judy. How did it come to be in the show. I recall reading that it was originally a dragon. Is this correct?
Many Thanks. ~ Richard Freeman.
My brief Crocodile article can be found on The Puppetry Home Page. It's certainly not comprehensive and doesn't mention all of the many theories that have been put forth. (BTW, the email address given for me in that article no longer exists.) For example, some say that the Croc sprang directly from the pages of Barrie's "Peter Pan." In an article appearing in Vol 4 No2 (Summer 1999) of Around the World With Mr. Punch, Michael Byrom discussed the origins of the crocodile. He finds some evidence that a Dragon was in use in historic Punch shows either before or concurrently with the Crocodile. In his opinion, the Crocodile first emerged in the Polichinelle shows of mid-nineteenth century France. Online Ed.
Punch as Ambassador
I thought you and your colleagues might be interested in the following.
James A. Gilman
All Profs are used to being ambassadors for Punch and Judy but here is Mr. Punch actually in the hands of an Ambassador Prof. We hope our world wide intelligence gathering Punchiana experts can shed some light on this fascinating revelation. Ed.
I recently saw the original version of the film "Gone to Earth" which was filmed in Shropshire during the late 1940's. One scene has a country fair and a P&J show. Any idea who the professor might have been? The Punch had a red ponytail.
Regards, Trev Hill.
I thought you might like to know: We recently uploaded a dvd-quality mpeg of Santa Claus' Punch & Judy (1948) to the Internet archive.
Cheers! Germaine Fodor