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Topic: PUNCH AND JUDY - who, what and how?
Message: Posted by: DrNorth (Dec 12, 2004 07:59AM)
This seems like a good place to start. In my web searches I have found allot of history about the Punch and Judy puppet shows, but not a whole lot on scripting and stories. Especially in a Renn faire context where one wants a viable re-enactment but plays well enough to entertain a modern audience.
I don't even know where to begin as far as props sets puppets and the like.
Any one ever do Punch shows?
Message: Posted by: Regan (Dec 13, 2004 06:42AM)
Contact Eric Sharp. He is a member of The Magic Café.

Message: Posted by: pixsmith (Dec 16, 2004 07:34PM)
Check out the Puppetry Store, a part of the Puppeteers of America. ( http://www.puppeteers.org ) There are several books with good scripts in them.

I think one of the best is Sidney DeHempsey's book that was (I think) carried by Supreme many years ago. There are also reprints of the Cruikshank book (I think it contains the script transcribed by Pepys) and a terrific couple of kids' books that have great scripts (and was the book that showed the bloody decapitated head trick!)

If you need more details, let me know, and I'll get the books and look up the info.


Message: Posted by: DrNorth (Dec 17, 2004 11:39AM)
Is a one mas show possible? or is that one of those "depends" questions? I'd guess at the least two would be ideal
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Dec 17, 2004 12:24PM)
A sideshow exhibit customer (and friend) of mine ('Cheeko' aka Brent Dewitt) has done a one man show for years, here and abroad. All traditional. Unfortunately he's always on the road and not able to be called. I do have his snail mail address however.
VERY friendly guy and would be glad to help you I'm sure.

Message: Posted by: rossmacrae (Dec 18, 2004 01:08AM)
Unless you're a Brit whose audiences know the traditions of Punch and Judy, I think you'll find that other audiences (who have never seen it) will expect something WAY cleaned up and "kid-friendly". Punch and Judy performed traditionally is the "Grand Theft Auto" of puppet shows!
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Dec 18, 2004 10:39AM)
Rossmacrae: Correct...his version is a 'cleaned up' Traditional. :) But he does have a brit accent! hahaha.

Your annalogy as to GTA is on the money.

Message: Posted by: pixsmith (Dec 21, 2004 09:45AM)
The P&J show is generally a one person show, with a second person bottling if needed- Often the second person also provides accompaniment (many times on the jurdy gurdy or accordion) and has the important role in "translating" Mr. Punch's comments and framing the story. This combination, though, is seen less and less.

The mayhem and such that seem to be at the core of the distress with Punch and Judy aren't really the heart of the show. Further, keep in mind that P&J was not conceived as chilren's entertainment -- It was originally for the enjoyment of adults. In the way that cartoons were co-opted for kids ca 1960-90 or so, Punch and Judy was (the verb agreement is always confusing here -- I use the phrase as a single title, for those of you wont to nitpick) thought of as "just a puppet show" and thus appropriate for children's parties.

The British panto tradition of the P&J performance (thanks to Silly Billy for the clarification on this in his Genii interview) in a lot of ways aided and abetted that transformation. The style of the shows and the audience participation quotient is similar. "Modern" sensibilities and the desire to avoid any sort of conflict or offense are more to blame than the show itself.

All that to say this -- Punch and Judy, even presented in the traditional way, can be terrifically entertaining and will distress only the most rabid of the feel-gooders. Jay Marshall, John Stiles, and a host of other performers have performed consistently entertaining shows, true to the spirit of the old rascal and accepted by modern "enlightened" audiences for a number of years.

The caveat would be this -- don't just decide, "I'll add a Punch and Judy show!" and try to grab some puppets and start (though I would be delighted to build them for you and take your money). That's akin to buying a magic book and a color changing hank at the mall kiosk and becoming a magician. It is a difficult thing to do well, and, like most good things, requires more than a little knowledge, a lot of rehearsal, and a worthwhile director to tell you what works and what doesn't.

Message: Posted by: Todd Robbins (Dec 21, 2004 08:46PM)
Punch probably does not date back as far the Renaissance, but it fits in with the feel of Ren Faires. There's a real rough and tumble quality to a good P & J show that would work well at Ren Faires. A good P & J can be ribald too. I believe there have been some puppeteers that have done the show in these venues.

One question to ponder is whether or not to use a swazzle. It's a great thing but does limit what can be understood. The script with the Cruikshank illustration I think is available online at one of the English P & J websites. The problem with that text is that there is no way the Punch Professor could be using a swazzle, say all dialogue in the script and be understood.

Most good Punch shows I've seen have a rhythm to them that is very infectious. They have very little talking and a lot of action. Get a hold of the short film Santa Claus and Punch & Judy. It's a good example of what I'm talking about. It was made in the 1940s and features a short P & J show done by George Prentice. George was a protege of Al Flosso's. It looks like the puppets he used were carved by George Larsen who was better known as Pinxy.

As for the puppets themselves, unless you can find an old set (Pinxy and Foy E. Brown carved the best) you will either have to find a wood carver to do it if you don't want to carve them yourself or go to one of the English puppet makers like Bryan Clarke.

I've been fascinated with P & J for years. I have an old set of puppets and I'd like to do a show that not only incorporates the elements that Al Flosso used in the show he did in the sideshow, but also the punch whistle pitch he did after the act.
Message: Posted by: jlibby (Dec 29, 2004 10:21PM)
Ah, the memories this brings back! Several years ago at the Ventriloquist Convention in Ft. Mitchell, KY, Jay Marshall did his Punch and Judy show. It was absolutely hysterical! Naturally, he did Lefty too, and got a standing O!

Joe L.
Message: Posted by: rossmacrae (Jan 2, 2005 10:47PM)
Not that anybody asked, but I thought I'd share a few paragraphs from a page of my carnival e-book - clears up some "everybody knows" misconceptions:

The traditional show involves the shrill, quarrelsome and violent hunchback Punch and his shrewish wife Judy, Toby (Punch's black dog, in performance usually a trained live dog) and a varied cast of occasional characters: the Baby, the Beadle or Policeman, the Doctor, Sambo the Negro, the Hangman Jack Ketch, the Clown, the Crocodile, the Ghost (originally the Ghost of Judy), and the Devil. The "bird warbler," a little like the real swazzle but far different in construction, was sometimes sold as a pitch item.

The show's origins can be traced at least as far back as Commedia dell' Arte, in which Pulcinella, a hook-nosed, cowardly buffoon, was a popular character. A similar puppet show derived from medieval mystery plays already existed in Britain. Combined with Commedia influences, Pulcinella became Punchinello, or Punch. As performed in England, Punch acquired a wife (originally known as Joan), and by the end of the 17th century it was a popular (if much changed) tradition. The real origins of the character of Punch are almost certainly much older. Violently anarchic clowns were certainly a staple of Roman theater. Punch's huge nose, hump, bulging chest and ever-present big cudgel, often interpreted as signs of animal instincts and overwhelming sexual urges, would have been right at home on the Roman stage. A Roman statuette of a mime named Macchus exhibits all of these features, and a similar "clown," Vernacchio, gives a hellish performance in Fellini Satyricon (no doubt wildly imagined by the director, but true in spirit to Greek comedy) that looks very much like an early vision of Punch. The character very likely precedes even that, back into the dim recesses of history.

The standard story is attributed to Silvio Fiorillo, a 17th century Italian Commedia dell' Arte performer. The ever-jealous and violent Punch enjoys dancing (a metaphor for sex) with shrewish wife Judy, but when she produces The Baby he strangles it. Judy fetches a bludgeon and belabors Punch, until he seizes another bludgeon and beats her to death, flinging the two dead bodies into the street. The bodies attract the Beadle (police officer), who enters the house. Punch flees, but is arreested and jailed. He escapes by means of a golden key. The rest is an allegory, showing Punch triumphing over guilt or old age, in the shape of a dog; disease, represented by a doctor, is kicked out; Death is beaten to death, and the Devil himself is outwitted. His exultant, repeated cry "That's the way to do it!" is a familiar catch-phrase.

The Punch and Judy show shares a lot of lingo with other British street performers (see the British Circus Lingo page for a rich dose of Parlari, the language of British traveling performers). Here are some common terms used by "Punch Professors" and their assistants:

Bottle — The collection, the collecting bag (originally a leather bottle).
Bottler — The collector of contributions.
Bonar — Good
Buffer — The live trained dog Toby.
Busker — Street performer.
Castello — The booth in which Punch is performed.
Co and Co — The Punch man's partner, probably short for "the company" assisting the star.
Chanting — The punchman's drone with the swazzle, calling up the crowd.
Drop — Donate.
Frame — The castello
Facer-board — The castello's proscenium arch.
Fiela — child.
Finchia — (Italian) swazzle gelt - money
Homa or Homy — Man.
Hedge — Audience.
Joey — Clown.
Palare — Punchman's slang.
Pipares — Pan-Pipes (used, usually with a drum, to attract a tip)
Pratique — (French) swazzle.
Palone — Girl.
Pivetta — (Italian) swazzle.
Playboard — The shelf over which the show is performed.
Pitch — The site of the show.
Pitch — Actually performing.
Questa Questa — Alternative to Co and Co.
Reign — To perform undisturbed.
Roundings — Draperies around the castello
Scapar — To be off, run away
Slumareys — Properties, puppets etc.
Sleeve — The hand-puppet's costume.
Swazzle — The reed-like device used to make Punch's voice.
Sifflet-pratique — (French) swazzle.
Silver Reed — Swazzle.
Slum — Swazzle.
Sgherlo — (Italian) swazzle.
Swatchel — Swazzle.
Swatchel Homy — The performer using the swazzle.
Slanging — Performing.
Talk — The Punch Professor's explanatory patter.
Tabora — Drum.
Towzer — An early name for Toby.
Tray — A canvas shelf to hold puppets and props.
Cateva Slum — Poor use of the swazzle
Varda — Look.
Yeute Munjare — No food.
Yeute Lente — No bed.
Yeute Bivare — No drink.

Message: Posted by: Patchouli (Jan 21, 2005 11:24AM)
Nice post rossmacrae.

In Italia Pulchinella is native from the Napoli place. Pulchinella is a way to represent death. His name and hook-nose come from the chicken which also symbolise death in this part of Europ. His costume was, originally white (in the comedia dell arte), because it represent "le linceul" (I don't know the english word)in which dead people were buried.
Some artists used to present the classic shows of the comedia dell arte with pupetts "buratinis". When they cross the Alpes to come in France a confusion has been made With the costume of "Arlequino" but the difformities of "Maccus" (the roman pupett) has been added.
In France the Pupetter "Brioché" 1567-1677 presented "Polichinelle" on the Pont neuf in Paris near Notre Dame.
The Pupett continued is travel to London were it was first presented May 9th in 1662 at "Coven Garden" (I was here). At that time "Judy" was called "Joan".
In St Paul's Cathedral is written in stone :"Near this spot Punch's Puppet show was first performed in England 1662"

Cordialement, Patrick

If you want more, or if you simply don't understand my post, just tell me for I can ameliorate my participation.

Cordialement, Patrick
Message: Posted by: DrNorth (Jan 21, 2005 06:31PM)
***, my head is just spinning. I knew there was more to Pnch and Judy then what appears on the surface. Does any one know of a decent clip (easy to find clip!!) that shows a good example of Punch and Judy? Maybe an online link? I want to thank everyone for their input and ideas.
Message: Posted by: Patchouli (Jan 21, 2005 07:49PM)

You mentionned :
Pratique — (French) swazzle.

I search for years to find information on the swazzle. It seems impossible to find a swazzle; even to find a picture or a pattern to see what it looks like.

The only thing I know is that it is a small instrument composed of two thin iron slices with in between a small ribon. This instrument is placed into the mouth above the tongue and top of the mouth and makes the voice deformed.

Can you help me please.
Cordialement, Patrick.
Message: Posted by: magicgeorge (Jan 21, 2005 08:49PM)
I have found that the mentioning of the "s" word is almost tantamount to magical exposure amongst P&J artistes. Hence the lack of info.
Message: Posted by: Todd Robbins (Jan 21, 2005 09:35PM)
The punch whistle or swazzle was a closely guarded secret. Now, you can find a great deal of info about it and other thing P & J all over the web. Start with these:


That's the way to do it.
Message: Posted by: Patchouli (Jan 22, 2005 11:28AM)
Thank you Todd.

Your inesperate answer makes my day Shinny. I present "Guignol" for years in my very little "Theatre Magique" and made a lot of research on the subject of "Polichinelle". I never found any picture of the swazzle and you give me an URL where they explain how to do it. Thousand of Thanks.

Cordialement, Patrick.
Message: Posted by: Todd Robbins (Jan 23, 2005 03:41PM)
My pleasure. You should go over to the graveside forum and post about Guignol. It is a form of theater that few here in the US know about (except for the scene in the movie Interview with a Vampire). There was a theater company here in NY that did some Grand Guignol plays, but there were very small and attrached very little attention.

Message: Posted by: Patchouli (Jan 23, 2005 09:37PM)
On 2005-01-23 16:41, Todd Robbins wrote:
My pleasure. You should go over to the graveside forum and post about Guignol. [/quote]

I don't understand "graveside forum" is it in the Magic café ? I did'nt find it.
Or somewhere else ?

Or do you mean I should open a forum for our "national marionnette".

If some people is interested on this subject, it is sure that my knowledge should be enought to answer all the questions (even from Frenchies).

Cordialement, Patrick.

"Grand Guignol" is very different from "Guignol".

The first one is a form af theater played by comedians on stage. It is very violent with magic effects to make the brutality more realistic (blood, murder on stage, etc...) :bat:
Guignol, the puppet is (in opposition to Polichinelle) very sympathic, have good principles, even is sometimes he hits the policeman with his wooden "bâton". :wavey:

The reason why the Grand Guignol use the identity of the hero from children is based on a confusion between Guignol and Polichinelle. (Even french people don't know that).

Cordialement, Patrick.
Message: Posted by: Todd Robbins (Jan 24, 2005 09:37AM)
Thanks for correcting me. I did not know of the difference. Merci.
Message: Posted by: Patchouli (Jan 24, 2005 09:50AM)
"De rien cher Todd !"

And What about your words "graveside forum" ?

Cordialement, Patrick.
Message: Posted by: Todd Robbins (Jan 24, 2005 10:35AM)
The spooky, the mysterious...the bizarre!
If graveside magic is your thing...

That is the forum I referred to. It's on the menu above this forum and is for people interested in bizarre magic.

Message: Posted by: Patchouli (Jan 24, 2005 05:22PM)
As I explained to Todd on another table on the Forum café :

On 2005-01-23 23:06, Patchouli wrote:
"Grand Guignol" is very different from "Guignol".

The first one is a form af theater played by comedians on stage. It is very violent with magic effects to make the brutality more realistic (blood, murder on stage, etc...) :bat:
Guignol, the puppet is (in opposition to Polichinelle) very sympathic, have good principles; even is sometimes he hits the policeman with his wooden "bâton". :wavey:

The reason why the Grand Guignol uses the identity of the hero from children is based on confusion between Guignol and Polichinelle. (Even French people don't know that).

Oscar Méténier bought an old chapel in Paris where was distinguish small cabaret called the "Théâtre salon". He presented inside small acts alternatively comic and fear. To make fear they used a lot of illusions and FX. To be complete I must admit that the shows used to be realistic and what we can tell (today) a bit sexy. But in these years it could be considered as nearly pornographic. (André de Latour, "comte de Lorde", is the author of most of the drama of he theater of "GRAND GUIGNOL")

And now...

Guignol is a Puppet which was created by a friend of a (tooth taker) "arracheur de dents". Guignol was at first presented on public markets for people come to approach the tooth taker. But he was so successful that he became a star in LYON and was next presented in an important café (like here but not virtual). Guignol spoke to workers at first. Guignol was speaking on what were going wrong. So, all the workers could identify themselves to him. It was the first political marionette. (I guess you have TV program called spitting images)
Afterward he became the emblematic figure for kids marionettes. Because of JB Onofrio.

Cordialement, Patrick.
Message: Posted by: Patchouli (Jan 24, 2005 05:32PM)
Ooooooooops, sorry.
I am living.
Message: Posted by: DrNorth (Jan 24, 2005 11:12PM)
"Grand Guignol" is something I have loved the idea of ever since doing bizarre magic. The two venues I'd love to do is a classily inspired (because by today’s standards and expectations an authentic one would be boring) Victorian style séance. I esp. love the ideas Lee Earle gives in his set manifestations, and a Stint at Grand Guignol (which was recently referenced in West Wing by Martin Sheens president character. That too is biased by the short example in Interview as Todd mentioned already. The closest I have ever seen of GG style are the horribly so bad they are good Horror movies like I spit on your Grave and 10,000 maniacs 8 the movie not the band)The one I remember was when some guy chopped up beautiful women for a dinner and another were a ballerinas feet were sawed off. Although Kill Bill Vol !'s Blue leaves Chapter was so over the top in gore it almost qualifies
Message: Posted by: Todd Robbins (Jan 26, 2005 10:33PM)
Wow! Every once in a while, something hits eBay and this is a good example. There are some nice puppets in this group. The were carved by the best of the American puppet makers, Foy E. Brown and George "Pinxy" Larson.
Message: Posted by: ChrisJ (Jan 29, 2005 07:23PM)
There's a Punch and Judy set on E-bay.
Looks classic but so is the price.
Message: Posted by: DrNorth (Jan 30, 2005 12:05PM)
That is a beautiful set Todd, thanks for sending the link. Pricey as hell, but very very cool. Looks like it's worth every penny
Message: Posted by: James Fortune (Aug 22, 2006 12:35PM)
Dear rossmacrae,

Palare is mainly gay men's slang used before being gay was legalised in Britain in the 1960's. It meant they could talk to each other in public without being understood.

Check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polari
Message: Posted by: Sealegs (Aug 25, 2006 06:54PM)
Wow, 16th and 17th century Italian and French theatre, Kill Bill, and gay Britain in the 1960's; all part of a response to a question about a puppet show script! I'm impressed. Very interesting reading.

Message: Posted by: DrNorth (Aug 25, 2006 07:41PM)
It's amazing how a topic can sometimes flourish in interest ring directions, even online!!
I have not found a set that I feel is authentic (most are plastic sets) that set that was on eBay when the topic opened was great but PRICEY!! Also I'll need to find a good script that catches the theme but can be modernized enough to keep an audience entertained in today's settings. (At least at our Renn faire modern references are used to keep current but in a Renn feel.
Of course I am sure that putting a decent looking set, "stage" and puppets will be costly in any case.