Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Punch and Judy - Long lived characters

Firstly, just want to remind everyone to post a comment in my contest blog. You may win $50 amazon gift card just by cutting and pasting a funny joke... that's worth it isn't it? Or write a funny situation that happened lately. It can be anything as long as it made you laugh.

Right now I'm reading the book Howard's End by EM Forster - don't even get me started as to how hard that book is to finish... anyway, while reading it yesterday, one of the characters made reference to the 'Punch and Judy Show'.

Now, it's not the first I've heard of it, in fact, I've seen it done on Midsomer Murders. However, I hate only knowing half of a story... so I did research.

May 9 1662 - the date on which the figure who later became Mr Punch made his first recorded appearance in England - is traditionally reckoned by "professors" as Punch's UK birthday.

In the British Punch and Judy show, Punch wears a jester's motley and is a hunchback whose hooked nose almost meets his curved jutting chin. He carries a stick, as large as himself, which he freely uses upon all the other characters in the show. He speaks in a distinctive squawking voice, produced by a contrivance known as a swazzle or swatchel (you can hear what he sounds like on the youtube video below) which the professor holds in his mouth, transmitting his gleeful cackle— "That's the way to do it". So important is Mr Punch's signature sound that it is a matter of some controversy within Punch and Judy circles as to whether a "non-swazzled" show can be considered a true Punch and Judy Show.

In the early 18th century, the marionette theatre starring Punch was at its height, showman Martin Powell attracting sizeable crowds at both Covent Garden and Bath, Somerset.

Punch was extremely popular in Paris, and, by the end of the 18th century, he was also playing in England's American colonies, where even George Washington bought tickets for a show.

In the latter half of the 18th century, marionette companies began to give way to glove-puppet shows, performed from within a narrow, lightweight booth by one puppeteer.

The character of Punch adapted to the new format, going from a stringed comedian who might say outrageous things to a more aggressive glove-puppet who could do outrageous, and often violent, things, to the other wooden-headed members of his cast.

Originally intended for adults, the show evolved into primarily a children's entertainment in the late Victorian era. Ancient members of the show's cast, like the devil and Punch's mistress Pretty Polly, ceased to be included when they came to be seen as inappropriate for young audiences.

The term "pleased as Punch" is derived from Punch and Judy; specifically, Mr. Punch's characteristic sense of gleeful self-satisfaction.

Modern British performances of Punch and Judy are no longer exclusively the traditional seaside children's entertainments they became in summer holiday resorts. They can now be seen at carnivals, festivals, birthday parties, and other celebratory occasions. With Punch and Judy, the characters usually include their baby, a hungry crocodile, Joey the Clown (a friend of Mr Punch), an officious policeman, and a prop string of sausages. The devil and the generic hangman Jack Ketch may still make their appearances but, if so, Punch will always get the better of them. The story changes, but some phrases remain the same for decades or even centuries: for example, Punch, after dispatching his foes each in turn, still squeaks his famous catchphrase "That's the way to do it!!"

Source: Wikipedia
Punch and Judy History


Carol Kilgore said...

I'll be darned. "That's the way to do it!" Never know what I'll learn when I read a new blog. I'll be back.

Kimberly Franklin said...

Hmm...that's very interesting. Who knew??? Thanks for sharing. : )

Ann Elle Altman said...

Carol and Kimberly, glad to enlighten. I like learning tidbits about the history mentioned in the books I read.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Very cool! Thanks for letting me know more about "Punch and Judy." And..I'm a Midsomer Murders fan, too!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Ann Elle Altman said...

Thank, Elizabeth, went off on a bit of a tangent there. But, it seemed to work with the readers.


Mason Canyon said...

I hadn't thought of them in years. I never realize they had such a long history. Thanks for sharing. Love your blog.

Ann Elle Altman said...

Mason, glad you like the blog.


ArtSparker said...

The character of Mr. Punch was used to good effect In Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban - And Neil Gaiman has collaborated on a wonderful graphic Novel with Dave McKean , Mr. Punch. I think he represents the reptilian brain in all of us.

Ann Elle Altman said...

Art Sparker... reptilian brain. Second time I've heard that today. I agree, he's the primal version of us in a way. Great insight.


Anonymous said...

Fascinating! I researched the Punch and Judy Show a bit last year, but not so in-depth. Thanks for sharing!


from the desk of a writer

Ann Elle Altman said...

Corra, glad you found it insightful.