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I thought that I would include a potted history of Punch and Judy puppet theatre as my early experiences of puppetry were sitting on a beach watching Punch and Judy or Andy Pandy on the television. Making my puppet has evoked fond memories of childhood and at the time there seemed nothing wrong with Punch beating his wife, it seemed fitting and a bit naughty and he always got his comeuppance!
George Speaight describes this fascination in his book 'Punch and Judy A history'
"The puppet theatre has not always been a childrens theatre, but it has always been the theatre of the people. The wealthy and the sophisticated too have loved the puppets, but as a light diversion or a passing fancy; their elemental appeal has always found an enduring response from the simple and the pure in heart, from peasants and labourers, from artists to poets, from the child-like spirit in man."
The show has its roots as far back as 500BC with Greek and Roman puppet shows, continuing into minstrel puppet shows based on European folk traditions until the 1500's. As far back as the Roman Atellan Farce plays there have been defined characters that everyone could recognise. Bucco, the comic slave; Maccus, the country bumpkin; Pappus, the old dotard; Dossennus, the sharp tongued hunchback; Manducus, grinding his teeth to frighten the children; Cicirrus, the 'cock man' a boastful fighter.
In England puppet shows were based around a the religious theme of Church Mystery plays however buffoonery very soon crept into these plays, the shepherds were shown as country bumpkins, Noah's wife as a shrew and Herod raging as in a melodrama. The ecclesiastical authorities, finding themselves unable to curb it, finally expelled the entire drama from the churches.
|Will Kemp - Elizabethan Clown|
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Although Punch's name has remained consistant his wife has changed her name from Joan in the 18th C to Judy in the 19th C. An excerpt from The Authors Farce by Fielding has Punch singing "Joan you are the plague of my life, A rope would be welcomer than such a wife!". Theories for this include a corruption through the use of swazzles (a contraption to make the voice squeaky) in Punch's voice of the name Joaney. However Joan was the most popular name for girls in the lower classes in the 16 -17thC and used as a synonym for a domestic and a 'Judy' in the 19thC was slang for a tramps woman which may have more bearing on why the name was changed.
The shows have not always been performed by glove puppets, early versions were marionettes in the Italian tradition with 'trailer' booth shows outside advertising their wares. However marionette shows were expensive to run and difficult to transport and dwindling takings encouraged puppeteers to downsize and take their shows onto the streets. This shift to a one man band also affected the characters, the cast varied from seven to seventeen characters depending on the wealth and skill of the puppeteer who was limited by the confines of the booth to a two handed operation. Thus some of the characters that were familiar to an 18thC audience are lost to us today.
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