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Punch images

Postby CvdC » 01 May 2014, 04:34

Birmingham Library have put up a page on Punch material
http://www.libraryofbirmingham.com/punchandjudy
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Re: Punch images

Postby Richard Coombs » 05 May 2014, 12:52

Cheers CvdC

Some nice images in there , many I had seen before , some I had not

But it is strange what you notice when looking at even a familiar picture:

There is something about this one I had never noticed before:


Image

Picini was described somewhere as being a 'funny little man' ( forgive my not knowing where ..Geoff Felix will doubtless know).
And indeed it is the whole issue of relative 'Heights' that has always been the focus of my attentions and thoughts whenever I see this drawing:

(a) The puppeteer is a short man ( or at least shorter than his bottler )
Standing on the booths raised platform his head and the bottlers are almost at the same height ( his bottler could of course have been a very tall man , which might have made the Puppeteer of regular height )

(b) The performer works standing on a platform .
I like this detail as I too always work about 11 or twelve inches off the ground , standing on wooden boxes inside my booth .

(c) Whether the pucnhman is short or tall , working on a platform does a couple of things : it puts the puppets high up in the air and visible even to a crowd several people deep , and it also keeps the performers feet dry , and the travel case for the puppets , and his hat ( and anything else inside the frame) . Dry from rain or puddles should the street be wet ..and back then 'puddles' were not only rainwater- you can let your imaginations work out the rest !

(d) The upturned puppet case makes a useful shelf , within easy reach to drop finished puppets onto and to keep any props handy .

(e) The almost unnecessary observation that the performer is working 'hands above head' which was pretty standard back then , as opposed to the now more usual "hands in front of face" method .

And that is it ...that is what I have noticed every time I have looked at this drawing many many times before now.

The reason I want to thank you CvdC for pointing us to these images from Birmingham Library , is that this time when I looked at it I saw something else.
It had always been there.
I had never 'seen' it.

And it is a very big departure from how we all do things every time we perform in our booths.
An even bigger issue than the vexed question of 'Hands in Front' or 'Hands above Head" - and that is an issue where everyone feels their method is the right / best / the only way.

But this other thing, - the thing I had not spotted - , we all now do a totally different way to what is shown in the drawing .

We hang our puppets upside down.

True there are two slightly different ways of doing this too ..a method from the past was to have a wire traversing the frame and hooks sewn on the puppets hem , letting a puppet be placed anywhere on the wire ( but these little hooks could snag on things , or even poke the performer in the eye on the journey from wire at waist height to puppet up at performing height : hands above head method.
Nearly everyone now puts Hooks on the Booth and Rings on the puppet.

Admittedly there was a recent performer who worked with his puppets laid on a shelf in the booth yet still did a fast change over even when putting hands into them this way ( again someone will remind me who that was ..Percy Press senior ? )

But in this drawing you can clearly see the puppets are higher in the booth than we are used to seeing ...and that is because they are hanging the other way up ..heads on top.

Why I had never noticed this before today I do not know?
I guess the other 'height' related details had always dominated my perceptions.
Somewhere I have a photo from the internet of Guinoll puppets hanging this way up
Wooden dowels drilled into the theatre frame on either side of their necks support the head from which the whole puppet is 'suspended'.

Presumably Picinis theatre has a similar system?
Cruickshanks fast scribbling doesnt show us the detail close enough to see.
But there is no reason to suspect that he did not draw exactly what he saw.

And in the picture the Puppets are definitly not hanging where we would have them , upside down at waist height . I had always assumed performers of the past always had them exactly as we did.

But here is a drawing that shows us otherwise.

Hanging puppets this way was / is presumably the norm for Guinoll /Polchinelle ?

And Picini and Punchinello came as we know from Italy , so was hanging puppets this way up a continental European trend?
Is this then, an established way that Italian puppeteers from other genres than Punch would hang/store their figures?

I wonder when doing it the current way in England began ?
Perhaps Picini being Italian was the only Punch man to work this way .
There were glove puppet shows in England before Punch, perhaps our 'upside down ' method is the way things have always been done in the UK even pre Punch , a practical detail that carried on into Punch becoming popular?

We may never know.
But thanks CvdC for leading me up a rambling path of questions.

Best
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Re: Punch images

Postby Chris » 05 May 2014, 16:47

Yes Richard, you are right. It was the original Percy Press who laid his puppets flat on the sling in front of him, rather than hanging on hooks. He claimed he could change puppets faster that way. His was indeed a fast show.

I am not sure that you can deduce Piccini a small man from the evidence of that picture. True he appears smaller than his bottler - but the bottler is nearer to the viewer and so perspective dictates that the puppeteer inside the booth be drawn smaller.

Standing on a platform certainly has the advantages you name, but I imagine the main reason is stability. The common practice for street booths (which cannot be pegged down against the wind) was for the puppeteer to stand on a base board (or sometimes a strap) thus the weight of the puppeteer adds to the stability. A wooden puppet box would add extra weight.

Also extra height was desireable for visibility since street shows worked to a standing audience in close proximity - no kiddies sitting on picnic rugs at the front in those days!

I seem to remember this matter is discussed in John Alexander's "The Frame File" and I know that one of the designs for booths does feature a baseboard.

As for the puppets hanging right way up. Firstly this may be artistic licence. But your recollection of Polichinelle puppets hanging right way up reminds me that this was often the preferred method when the puppets where worked on sticks. I have a 19th Century Polichinelle set and all the puppets do have a staff in the head. Also this was a method used by not a few Punch profs. George Blake (the inventor of the lazy tongs booth) had puppets with sticks to the head and he considered it the "standard" way of working Punch. I believe it was also a common method in America where, at the turn of the century, Punch was as popular as in Britain. I also aquired a 1930s set of Punch puppets from Canada and they all have stick heads.

I've not tried it, but it may be that puppets with a shaft to the head are more readily accessed when hanging upright? Perhaps Piccini's dolls were made this way?

Incidently the Polichinelle puppets of the period were often big, with heavy, elaborate costumes, and would certainly more easily be managed with a stick to the head. I suspect you may use this method with some of your more elaborate creations? I think Martin Bridle has a stick inside his Punch, though not the rest of the cast. This allows him to do one particularly clever bit of manipulation.
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Re: Punch images

Postby Richard Coombs » 05 May 2014, 19:04

All smashing stuff Chris.

Yes I did know about the baseboards / straps from the frame file..but in both instances it still puts the performers feet on the ground ( except by the width of the board or strap ) ..so still likely to get wet after a shower etc.

But I particularly like that in this illustration the base board is a raised platform.

What you say about sticks in elaborate costumes in true : at the very least a stick will allow female characters to have narrow waists ( so long as the hands/arms are loose not operated )
And yes some of mine are like that ..although I do still hang them upside down .

Ahh nope ... my Queen Elizabeth 1st hung right way up on a bracket built into her costume at her shoulders , but that was only because she was so large and complex , there would not have been room inside the booth to have her any other way.

If anyone has seen the fairly recent Heath Ledger Movie "Casanova" , there was a splendid street puppet show segment in that , quite bawdy and done in the streets of Venice ..the puppets were in elaborate costumes ( with waists ) and wearing masks ...it was very much a Comedia delle Arte type of piece but done with puppets.

Knowing the movie industry there is no guarantee it was remotely historically accurate , and probably just done because it looked nice. But those puppets 'looked' as though they would handle better stored right way up , simply because of the very elaborate nature of the costumes.

The great trick with fiddlesome costumes on a glove puppet is to have them instantly fall into place as soon as the puppet is put on and lifted into the proscenium arch. This is particularly true of female characters in skirts , if the skirts are flowing , or crinolined in any way.
When building such figures myself , there are little tricks ( easier to show in photo form) that help maintain the shape of things a bit when the puppet is hanging on its hook


Oddly with regard to Cruikshanks drawing using dramatic licence --and therefore possible not accurate -- I don't know why, but I very much trust that he drew what he saw.

The puppets are stowed at the sort of height that you would want them at to put them on easily that way up ( and lift them off their 'pegs' ? either side of the head ) .

Had he drawn them that way up ... but positioned much lower down in the booth ( at the sort of waist height ours are at using our methods) ...then I might be tempted to agree, as that would not seem 'practical' in real use. But where they are , and that way up would seem to work in performance.

I very much feel a few photos would liven up this strand , but I am about to go to London for 3 weeks rehearsals.

When I get back , I might take some shots of my Queen Victoria since her 'restoration' the other year , and also my Queen Elizabeths 1st and 2nd ...and even Judy hanging upside down illustrates the crinoline effect.
So more after the Mayfaye.

Good luck to all who are going
See you there

Richard
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Re: Punch images

Postby Chris » 05 May 2014, 20:12

I know someone else, Richard, who views Cruikshank cartoons as scale drawings. I feel sure that he could draw what he saw, but also that he could, and did, draw from imagination. He drew for effect - that was his job: caricature, not mechanical drawing. Actually he may never have seen behind the booth in any detail. Isn't the story that he and Collier got the aged Piccini to erect his booth in a pub, and perform the show for them - for Collier to record the script and Cruikshank to make the drawings. All those drawings are from the front and although Cruikshank may have glanced behind his interest was in recording the characters and the action.
The drawing we are talking about is obviously not totally accurate. For example there is no cover over the back, when I'm sure there would have been. Also I note that this booth apparently has no proscenium or wings. Yet all Cruikshanks's front views show proscenium arch and quite elaborate scenery. In this sketch there is neither backcloth nor booth-backing. Obviously this is drawn this way in order to allow Cruikshank to show us what he wants us to see. The puppets hanging right way up may indeed be accurate, but equally it may have been because Cruikshank thought they looked best that way, or maybe that was the way he imagined them. After all the artist was not illustrating for the instruction of future generations of Punch men.

This is a lovely little atmospheric sketch but not to be taken too literally I suggect. Still it's fun speculate.
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Re: Punch images

Postby CvdC » 05 May 2014, 23:57

Pegs in Lyon. It just shows that Cruikshank was a very accurate observer as I am sure he did not make up this technique.
Image

The reason that Piccini is raised up off the ground may well have been because the roads in his time were muddy with piss and horse shit. But also to keep the booth blowing over and for the extra height.
Looking at some old photographs, from a later period you will see that the booths are often set up in the gutter between the road and the footpath to keep out of the way of both passing coaches and pedestrians. Although there is an account of a Punch and Judy performer being killed after being hit by a coach in the early 19th century.

I once did do some research into the fabric old booths could have used. It would have been woolen baise or worsted that was starched and polished to keep it clean (calamanco). Later in the 19th century cotton became cheaper and canvas would have been adopted. But:

Image
This image is dated 1825. And it is in Glasgow which is not by the seaside. Note the gap under the booth.

As well as the checked cloth plain green baise was also used with just the upper portion a patterned material.

Image


I don't think you can even buy polished woolen fabric any more. Although there is in the US a company that produces historic fabrics for films and historic houses. I gather any sort of Woolen fabric is not as popular as it once was. I have noticed that old Punch figures used serge for the gloves. The red being that used in army uniforms.
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Re: Punch images

Postby CvdC » 14 May 2014, 04:48

Here is yet another web site with a repository of images that would be of interest

http://www.theworldthroughwoodeneyes.co.uk/prints.html

Researching Punch and Judy is a lot easier than way back when this message board first began.
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Re: Punch images

Postby geoff.london » 15 May 2014, 18:34

What a great photo of a street show Chris! Any idea where it was taken? Geoff.
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Re: Punch images

Postby lesclarke » 15 May 2014, 20:24

One of the old Victorian/Edwardian frames I have has a 'rack' arrangement to hold the figures in this 'upright' way.
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Re: Punch images

Postby martinpunch » 15 May 2014, 20:47

Thats amazing and very beautiful
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Re: Punch images

Postby BilBug » 20 May 2014, 04:06

When building my 18th century show I researched a number of different images (English, Italian, etc) in order to produce a stage suitable to the period that I could reproduce using period appropriate materials. I looked at the images here, and a number of other Punch men, from back and sides.

I tried the method of the neck between wooden pegs, so that the puppet was upright, and found it just didn't work (for me) in terms of character changes, props, and general staging no matter how I tried. I ended up using an ivory ring sewn to the bottom hem of the puppet and hang them from wooden pegs on a removable board which mounts to the stage.

One of the things that I've always pondered is how often the stage frame would have to be rebuilt. You can only drive nails into wood so many times and places. :-)

Here is a photo from behind of a performance of Grand Portage National Monument in NE Minnesota given for the British Canadian fur trade event held there. You'll have to excuse the "non-period" white box which photo-bombed the image. Let me know if you'd like to see some others.


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Re: Punch images

Postby Chris » 20 May 2014, 10:07

I am a bit curious about your remark "One of the things that I've always pondered is how often the stage frame would have to be rebuilt. You can only drive nails into wood so many times and places."
Why would you want to insert nails repeatedly? If the booth were a street booth it would never be dismantled , being tipped up and wheeled away. If it were a portable booth it wouldn't have been nailed surely? Screws, nuts and bolts have been known since the 15th Century, although the fitups could also have been made with the cross members lashed together.

I don't know how you work your puppets but imagine that the method of suspending the puppets upright only works if you are (a) working hands-over-head, as you appear to do, and (b) that the puppets have staffs to the head. I may be wrong in this and wonder if anyone has tried the method? Perhaps Les, having such a booth, will experiment and report his findings?
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Re: Punch images

Postby lesclarke » 21 May 2014, 17:37

Never really tried it out when looking at that old booth, Chris, but I'd guess it would be workable, and I now appreciate that if the figures had 'staffs' to the head, it would make a lot of sense, as to hang such figures upside down, requires space to then rotate them upright once selected. My Ghost has a rod to his head and so is the only figure store upright.

I have often wondered how the old ( non-takedownable) frames were made, and also what wood was used. Today wood, like many things, 'isn't what it used to be', but when you look at things like old wheelbarrows, coster carts, dog carts etc, you can see how strong items can be made with decent dense wood using jointed construction, and quality fittings.

Were these frames sturdy pieces of kit, solidly made, that would keep their form despite rough knocks, that would add to the weight, or were they a bit more lightweight and 'flexible' and so able to absorb the odd bump?

Have any of these frames survived, or can any of our older readers recall seeing one?

These oft seen (on bay) images show some detail of such frames, the first has bloke with a hammer in hand, is he fettling or assembling? It also shows diagonal bracing struts. The second pic shows a frame with flooring planks only to the front part of the frame.

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Re: Punch images

Postby Chris » 21 May 2014, 23:18

I think there is a tendency to expect too much from illustrations. Just as I have never ever had a write-up from a journalist that was totally accurate, I don't know why we should expect any greater accuracy from newspaper sketches. The only sketches that are likely to be in any degree accurate are those drawn by a puppeteer.
For example, your top picture has a chap weilding a hammer which appears to be a toffee hammer, or perhaps one used by a piano tuner. And look at the booth - it's obviously far too tiny to work in. And look at Punch's arms.
These are not accurately observed and drawn to instruct posterity, they are competent hack drawings done in a great hurry to illustrate whatever article was being published. They will combine a bit of knowledge with a great deal of imagination. That is all the editor requires.

Getting back to the construction of old frames - I suspect that the best idea of basic construction is probably to be found in that illustrated in the Sidney DeHemsey books. But you can always have a look at the Codman's Llandudno booth. And I understand that there is a Codman booth in the folk museum in Liverpool dockland. Prof. Jackson may have some thoughts?

As for what kind of wood - surely in those days you just had wood, whatever you could get hold of. When I was a kid many men would tackle the making of carts and wheelbarrows and the like, nobody could afford to buy them, from whatever materials could be salvaged. I remember my Dad had dreadful difficulty in dismantling an old upright piano in order to use the wood to build a garden shed which, when finished, was a jig saw construction of deal and oak. Indeed the commonly available woods were deal and oak.

Of course in the rural areas there were various experts who knew the best trees to cut to suit their particular skill, be it building cartwheels, barrels or making dowsing rods.

But by and large I imagine the Punch men to have been among the poor of the community and would generaly have no great expertise other than in puppetry, and would have to have to grab whatever materials were available for booth and puppet making.

I am talking about the general run of Punch profs - there obviously are the exceptions who came to Punch already equipped with a background skill. The first Prof Codman was expert in woodcarving before he arrived in Llandudno and conceived the possibilities of a Punch Show. Similarly the wonderful Roselia figures are the work of a master craftsmen-artist and his carving abilities could have found an outlet idependent of puppet making.

You've got me rambling again Les!
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Re: Punch images

Postby CvdC » 21 May 2014, 23:26

The lower of the two illustrations as it has definitely been drawn from a photograph.
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