To hang or not to hang

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Re: To hang or not to hang

Postby Nick Jackson » 25 Jun 2014, 22:15

But we do work rather differently, Chris. You mostly do parties and events (I think) which I don't do at all. I only busk – in streets, parks and on promenades. My audiences are varied in age, backgrounds and attitudes.
And that was the point of this thread: I was genuinely interested to see what other people do.
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Re: To hang or not to hang

Postby Chris » 25 Jun 2014, 22:39

Why would your audiences be that much different than the rest of us Nick. I can't see why you should think that busking changes the nature or experience of children. Are your promenades that much different from Llanfairfechan or Colwyn Bay where I perform each year, are your parks much different from the couple in Wallasey I perform at occasionally, or that in Greenfield, or your street shows different from those in St Helen's, Llanrwst or Conwy?
My arguments are all based on relevance to the audience, not on whether you are payed a fee or pass the hat.
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Re: To hang or not to hang

Postby Tony James » 25 Jun 2014, 22:58

Chris wrote:Pure serendipity, but I was browsing a 1978 copy of "The Magic Circular" and came upon a reference to letter from an American visiting Britain in 1963 who wrote "I also went to Gravesend, a few miles away, to see an old man who makes Punch and Judy puppets - apparently an expiring craft. He carves them, paints them and costumes them, and the costumes are extremely elaborate. I am getting him to make me some. He is also an operator. He doesn't do the Devil and the Hangman, and only puts Punch in the stocks."
The Mecca of the pilgrimage to Gravesend may be readily identified as the home of Wal Kent in Brunswick Road.
Perhaps this will placate the traditionalists a little.


I rather think that 1963 Wal Kent had been dead a couple of years. !961 wasn't it Chris? So the American was probably visiting 37 Ridgeway where Fred Tickner lived. It certainly sounds like Fred.

He said :" I used to try and avoid that (the hanging) in the end. I had a set of stocks instead of Gallows."

Fred Tickner, Conversations with Punch. page 9 by Geoff Felix. A book I never cease to enjoy re-reading.

Now, here's another one who agrees with what Chris wrote earlier in this topic. Guess who?

"Whilst we are not personally against this (the hanging) we know that many parents are and after all, it is they who 'call the tune'. We throughly agree with those performers who tell us that the children see no horror in this but let's be perfectly honest. it is rather macabre isn't it, and the Punch story is in no way impaired without it. so why not cut it out."

Now that was written when hanging was still legal in the UK. But it was also a time when it was in serious question there having been some dubious executions including that of Ruth Ellis which was very questionable. This piece was published in 1963 and can be found on page 29 of Edwin Hooper's Hallo Mr Punch.

Even long established shows dropped it at this time including Frank Edmunds of Chester and Weymouth.

I included the hanging when I started because Fred supplied a gallows with my set even though he had dropped it himself several years earlier. I continued with it till later in the 70s when there were some bizarre cases of children hanging themselves. It usually involved a dressing gown cord around the neck and dropping from a top bunk bed. Horrific for the parents who found them and there was no explanation, only speculation. It wasn't just the odd case either.

It disturbed me and I found myself using Joey like a stern teacher, telling Punch he was stupid, you never do silly things like that, etc. That didn't sit comfortably with my show, so I dropped the routine and have rarely done it since Private adult parties mainly, the 80, 90 year old birthdays and just once a 100.

It was all long before political correctness kicked in and indeed if PC came into play over some routine I would consider that the very reason to include the routine. After all, isn't that what Mr P is supposed to be all about? I know that my audiences (mostly more adults than children) expect political incorrectness.

By the way, how many real live Dog Tobys are there today?
Last edited by Tony James on 25 Jun 2014, 23:14, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: To hang or not to hang

Postby Nick Jackson » 25 Jun 2014, 23:00

Chris wrote:Why would your audiences be that much different than the rest of us Nick.
But that's my point, precisely, Chris. Why would the audience be different on one particular pitch? You say it's OK in Llandudno but I can't see the difference between the audience there and the one I attracted in my years in Southport.
Chris wrote:I can't see why you should think that busking changes the nature or experience of children.
I don't think it does. But I'm not sure why children are relevant to the argument. Children don't have money. Mums and dads do – although it's mostly the dads who drop.
Chris wrote:My arguments are all based on relevance to the audience...
And that's a major philosophical question because I wouldn't know how to determine that. All I know is that when Punch hangs the hangman the dads cheer! And that's a great feeling.

Hanging isn't about people remembering that form of capital punishment. It's about Punch triumphing over authority. (By the way, don't think he should on this occasion as I'm not a fan of murder!)

I'll be honest, I wouldn't know how to perform Punch without the hanging. I wouldn't know how to end. Do we just let him get away with murder? That's one reason I started this thread – I was keen to hear what others do.

But having cleaned up Punch, what next? Hamlet? Macbeth?
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Re: To hang or not to hang

Postby Tony James » 25 Jun 2014, 23:24

I'll be honest, I wouldn't know how to perform Punch without the hanging. I wouldn't know how to end. Do we just let him get away with murder? That's one reason I started this thread – I was keen to hear what others do.

It's easy Nick. Simply finish this fantasy show with an appropriate fantasy figure. Just bring up the Ghost or the Devil and scare Mr P to death. The Ghost is stronger than the Devil in most parts of the UK except Ireland. There is generally a stronger recognition of the Devil over there unlike here where only adults understand the Devil and fewer of those as the years pass.

Now,it's up to you whether Punch sees off the Ghost or Devil or whether he is carted off down below. Whichever you choose just make certain he returns to take his bow. Logic doesn't come into it. The whole show is illogical, after all.
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Re: To hang or not to hang

Postby Nick Jackson » 25 Jun 2014, 23:30

Yes, that seems to be the case these days - although it wasn't always so.
Perhaps I should retire and leave it to the next generation. :(
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