Cultural Context and History
Punch and Judy are a very famous puppet duo from England who have been around for over 350 years. Although Punch and Judy are primarily English, they are thought to have originated in Italy- by Italian puppeteers who created the puppet character Punchinella. The character Punchinella was based on a character from a particular form of Italian Comedy called Commedia Dell'Arte. Punchinella was originally a marionette. When Italian people began fleeing Italy around 1660 because of poor government and war, this character (later called Punch) began popping up in theatres around England. Although Punch was definitely the first character to emerge, he was later followed by his wife, Judy, his 'girlfriend' Pretty Polly, and his dog, Toby. Punch and Judy shows are known for their outrageous humour, that includes lots of violence, tasteless jokes, and lying, stealing and cheating. It can be described as slapstick comedy:
- comedy characterized by boisterous action, such as the throwing of pies in actors' faces, mugging,and obvious farcical situations and jokes.
- stick or lath used by clowns, for striking other performers,especially a combination of laths that make a loud,clapping noise without hurting the person struck.
Materials and Construction:
- It wasn't until after 1825 that Punch transformed from a marionette, into a hand puppet, sometimes called a glove puppet. In this very traditional style, the puppet's arms and (sometimes) head are controlled by the hand of the puppeteer.
- Mr. Punch has a very distinctive outfit: a jester's motley (the fancy word for a jester's jacket. Similar to what a court jester would wear in medieval times), and a hat with a tassel. He carries his distinctive stick, called the 'slapstick' that he uses to beat other characters with. He has a crooked nose, and a hunchback.
- Punch is created by carving his form out of wood. Other puppets can be made out of plaster molds and paper mache. Clothing to fit the puppet appropriately is usually sewn and then attached to the puppet.
- Punch's unique voice is created by an instrument called 'the swazzle' a special instrument that is placed in the centre of the roof of the mouth, and the top of the tongue to create the particular squeaky, kazoo-esque speech that Punch has.
- Punch and Judy is normally associated with seaside culture. This move to the seaside happened because of development in bigger cities in England. Because of more people and technology, puppeteers had a more difficult time performing on the street. Traffic conditions were horrible.
- Shows take place in a mobile booth, that makes it easy for the puppeteers to travel with. Historically, they would move along the streets of London, gathering people to watch the show. These booths were covered with cheap, red and white checkered fabric which has become the iconic look of a typical Punch and Judy show.
- The puppets usually interact with the audience by asking them questions and engaging them in the story
- Punch's name wasn't the only name to transform over time. Prior to the 1800's Judy was referred to as Joan.
- In early Punch and Judy shows (in the 1600's and 1700's) Punchinella regularly got into fights with the Devil. In contemporary Punch and Judy performances, the Devil has transformed into a crocodile, his new biggest adversary.
- In earlier shows, Toby the dog was a real animal
- A Punch and Judy puppeteer is referred to as either a Punchman or a Professor
- Each punchman or Professor is responsible for creating their own puppets for a Punch and Judy show
- Most Punch and Judy shows not only have Professor, but a 'Bottler'- the Bottler's job was to get people to come and watch the show, and collect money, the puppeteer's 'tip' after watching show. The money would usually be collected in a bottle. As well as collecting people and money, the Bottler would also play live music to accompany the show and create sound effects. Usually the Bottler would play on a drum or guitar.
- May 9th, 1962 is considered to be Punch's English birthday- this was the day of the first marionette performance of Punchinella in England.
- The phrase 'pleased as Punch' was written for this character who is more often than not, totally satisfied with everything that he's done and immensely proud of himself.
- Because Punch and Judy is considered to be an English treasure, performances have moved from the seaside, back to central London where shows can be enjoyed by millions. Tpday. one can usually find a Punch and Judy show back out in the open air during festivals in the spring and summer in the district of Covent Garden in London.