Category:Punch and Judy
The Museum has a range of items relating to Punch and Judy, including two replica theatres (one on display), and sets of puppets from circa ~1815, ~1840, and ~1890. It also has a collection of European counterparts of the Punch characters in the Puppet Corner part of the Museum, and holds other puppet shows as an optional part of booked school visits.
A Brief History of Punch and Judy
The exact lineage of Punch is a little convoluted, but the character has his main origin in the performances of Commedia dell'Arte, an Italian theatrical troupe who roamed Italy in the C16th. Since the region didn't yet have a unified language, Commedia's performances couldn't rely on sophisticated wordplay, and instead leant heavily on comedic physicality and gleefully exuberant violence and non-verbal humour - the sort of "slapstick" performances that we now usually associate with the silent comedies produced in Hollywood in the early days of cinema. As with silent movies, there was a great deal of running, gymnastics, falling over, and Hitting Each Other With Big Sticks.
Since they'd been developed specifically to allow perfomances that worked across language barriers, Commedia's routines transferred well to other countries, and some Italian perfomers found that they could make a good living (and a good reputation) by introducing this style of entertainment to foreign audiences for whom it was a novelty.
Marionette-based versions of the shows then followed, which allowed performances to be put on more cheaply by smaller numbers of entertainers.
Different countries then developed their own local variations on the shows based around local favourites. In Germany and Austria, the Neopolitan antihero "Pulcinella" gave rise to "Kasper/Kasperl/Kasperle" and Gretel in Kasperltheatre, in France, the character became "Pulchinelle", and in England, the character's name eventually anglicised to "Punch", which also conveniently expressed the character's somewhat pugilistic tendencies. Punch was supported by (and fought with) a cast of distinctive-looking characters that typically included a "Beadle" or policeman, his wife Judy and their baby, The Devil (later replaced by The Crocodile), and The Doctor.
With the growth of the new railway network in the C19th, small fishing villages and ports such as Brighton were transformed. Cross-channel shipping moved from Brighton's Chain Pier to Portsmouth and Dover, and new piers such as the Palace Pier and West Pier were designed primarily as entertainment locations that expanding the amount of effective seafront available for recreation. The demand for compact portable beach entertainment spawned the Punch and Judy booth, a collapsable lightweight mini-theatre with high-visibility red and white stripes that allowed small children to revel in the simple, non-linguistic misbehaviour of Punch. The move from marionettes to hand-puppets meant that entertainers could work beneath a raised theatre area rather than above it, eliminating the need for additional platforms. Glovepuppets were also much easier to deal with than marionettes, since they could be simply thrown into a trunk at the end of the day without strings tangling, and the beachfront Punch and Judy Show became a staple of English seaside entertainment.
- "The Big Grin" (thebiggrin350.com) - is a project to celebrate the legacy of Punch and Judy in the UK over 2012. The anniversary (May 1662) is based on the date of a diary entry by Samuel Pepys, in which he describes seeing a street-theatre forerunner of Punch and Judy.
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Pages in category ‘Punch and Judy’
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Media in category ‘Punch and Judy’
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