Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Punch and Judy

When I was a child, growing up (after a fashion) in South Coast seaside towns, you could still see Punch and Judy shows on the beach. A narrow red-and-white striped tent, about six feet high but with a footprint of only about two or three feet square, was occupied by The Punch and Judy man, whom one never saw: he showed glove puppets through a small proscenium opening near the top of the tent, and did the voices with a sort of miniature kazoo in his mouth.

The standard story, subject to various additions and lots of business, had four characters: Mr Punch, with his characteristic hunched back and a downward-hooked nose that almost met his upward-hooked chin. Mrs Punch whose name was Judy, then there was their baby, and towards the end a policeman. Judy would say that she was going out shopping, and Mr Punch should look after the baby. After Judy had gone, the baby would start bawling and Punch would try various things to calm it, finally, in rage, battering it to death.

Judy then came home and made a tedious fuss about the murder of their baby, so Mr Punch battered her to death too; he always had a big stick. Enter the policeman, carrying a gallows, and explaining to Mr Punch that he must be hanged for his crimes; would he please put his head through this noose? Mr Punch says that he can’t quite see where he has to put his head, would the policeman please demonstrate? So the policeman does, whereupon Mr Punch pulls the noose tight, hanging the policeman, and ends the show with his catch-phrase ‘That’s the way to do it!’

We children loved it, roaring our approval at each violent death and ‘That’s the way to do it!’ One can sort of see why the show is never seen these days. Shame.


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