GHOSTS ARE WHITE
When performing for very young children you have to be aware how very real and alive the puppets appear in their eyes. That is at once an obvious advantage and a potential problem. The danger is that the young imaginations make scary characters even more terrifying. Since it would be a shame to omit the ghost, devil or crocodile, one must attempt to introduce them in such a way that they frighten Mr Punch without causing wet pants or hysterics among your young audience.
One technique is the gradual introduction rather than the shock appearance. For example my very frightening-looking devil first pops up with a fearful screech - unless the audience includes tinies, in a which case he slowly peeps, says "Boo!", and disappears.
The following routine is one way to introduce the ghost, or in my case a skeleton, who is to frighten Joey the Clown.
Joey: "Hello everybody -my name is Joey the Clown. Have you got names?"
Joey: "I'll count three, and you can all tell me your names. One...two...three.."
Joey: "That sounds a very complicated name - is it Welsh?"
Joey: "What kind of puppets are you?"
Kids: "We're not puppets!"
Joey: "You mean your real? There's nobody working you?"
Joey: "Oh?........ I'm a puppet you know."
Kids: "We know"
Joey: "So how do you work? Do they wind you up, or have you got batteries?"
Kids: (Various responses, among which you'll hear "We're humans")
Joey: "Oh, so are you really human beans?"
Joey: "I've tasted Baked Beans but I've never tasted Human Beans. Are you nice?"
Kids: (Protest) "You don't eat us, we're children."
Joey: "Oh, children - I like children.....yes, I like children, but I don't like ghosts and I don't like spiders. But I can see you're not spiders because you haven't got seven legs!"
Joey: "Eight? That's a bit greedy isn't it?"
Kids: "We haven't got eight. Spiders have eight."
(While they are protesting and explaining a White Rabbit appears behind Joey, taps him on the shoulder and then disappears below. Joey reacts violently)
Joey: "Ooooerrrr!!! Did you see that ghost?"
Kids: "It was a rabbit."
Joey: "I'm not a rabbit, I'm a clown. But I am little nervous where ghosts are concerned."
(As he is talking rabbit appears again behind him, taps him on the shoulder and disappears.)
Joey: "Oooooerrrr - there it is again. I told you it was a ghost"
Kids: "A rabbit"
Joey: "A ghost"
Kids: "A rabbit"
Joey: "What colour was it?"
Joey: "There you are, ghosts are white"
Kids: "So are rabbits"
Joey: "Did it have whiskers?"
Joey: "There you are, a Hairy ghost - they are the worst kind. Did it have long ears?
Joey: "There you are......oh! I don't think ghosts have long ears do they?"
Kids: "No, it was a rabbit"
Joey: "It must have been a rabbit. Fancy me being scared by a silly old Bunny Rabbit"
(As he is speaking the ghost rises up behind him - the kids squeal - as Joey turns the ghost bobs down)
Joey: (turning) "Oh go away Mr Rabbit - you've had your little joke."
(The ghost again appears behind the clown, following behind, just out of vision as Joey moves left and right. Kids are shouting "Its behind you" etc and Joey fails to see it. Eventually he turns to come face to face with the ghost. Then after holding static for a beat, Joey lets out a squeal and retreats to the wing. The ghost collapses in a heap on the playboard.)
Joey: (Approaching gingerly) That isn't a Bunny Rabbit. What is it?
Kids: "A skeleton"
Joey: "A Wellington?"
Kids: "A skeleton"
and from here I continue with a variation of the routine detailed in Eric Sharp's Specialised Punch and Judy Entertainment
Introduced this way, even the young kids are so excited by the chase with the rabbit they seem to forget to be frightened when the rabbit changes to the skeleton - they are too busy trying to warn Joey that it is no longer a rabbit.
Incidently this routine contains a great deal of banter with the children. You have to be prepared to vary your responses and react to what the kids are saying - and have a quip for every situation. Actually after a little experience of twenty years or more you will have discovered that these responses are predictable. Children tend to respond in a similar way and it isn't too difficult to be prepared with appropriate responses.
(c)Chris Somerville 1985