Intro

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Intro

Postby Sarah » 07 Jan 2017, 13:36

Hi everyone - I am new here as of today. To cut a long story short, I am interested in trying to start P&J where I live. I have zero experience, but I have a habit/knack of making "everything" talk - from our pets and my daughters soft toys, all the way down to trainers and kitchen utensils.

My daughter said I should do puppets LOL.

Made me think about Punch and Judy. I live in an isolated location and no existing shows that I can go to to speak to people about it.

So basically I am here hoping to learn as much as I possibly can about the subject as a whole :D

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Re: Intro

Postby Chris » 07 Jan 2017, 14:52

Sara, puppetry is a great hobby, but puppetry is not to be confused with Punch and Judy. Punch & Judy is a very specialised form of puppetry and very different from all other forms of puppetry. With Punch and Judy you are limited in the characters you use and the story-line both of which are, to some extent, defined by tradition. Punch & Judy might appear to be almost like a religious ritual and certainly it's adherants tend to be utterly dedicated and a touch intolerant of too much deviation from tradition.

If you had said that you had seen a brilliant Punch & Judy show, had fallen in love with the anarchy and the energy, and gloried in the nonsense and the violence, then I would say "Go ahead, have a bash!". I think Punch is like a disease - you have to become infected.

But really Punch has nothing to do with making soft toys or trainers or kitchen utensils talk. That is the realm of ventriloquism perhaps, or general puppetry. I would think that you would get far more from exploring puppetry generally than you would from Punch. If Puppetry were compared to Music, then you would have a number if instruments to explore, and a vast array of music to play. With Punch you are limited to a single instrument and one tune, albeit with many variations.

If you are determined to do Punch then there is a lot of information on this website. But if you want to explore puppetry more generally then you might be better looking at the website of The British Puppet Guild.
http://www.britishpuppetguild.org.uk
http://www.puppeteersuk.co.uk

You don't mention where you are, so I have no idea if there is anyone you could contact locally.
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Re: Intro

Postby Sarah » 07 Jan 2017, 18:57

Hi Chris

Thank you for the response. I have been struck in what reading I have done so far by the "formula" of Punch and it is one of the questions that I wanted to ask was just how far the script had to adhere to the formula/tradition.

I have to be completely honest and say that I have never seen a "live" P&J show - only videos and recordings of them. I live in (and grew up in) Alderney in the Channel Islands which, for those that don't know is a tiny island, 3 miles long, with a population of 1900.

One of the reasons I was interested in Punch was that I have been exploring traditional forms of entertainment and this was one that leapt out at me.

Having said that, I will go and have a look at some of the more generalised puppetry before I go too far down the avenue of making a decision as to my route. Thank you very much for the links :) It certainly sounds as though I have a lot more research on my hands :lol:

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Re: Intro

Postby Chris » 07 Jan 2017, 22:20

There's nothing to stop you having a puppet you call Punch and writing any stories you like him to feature in. You can even make him teach Road Safety if that is your thing. But the point is that it won't be a Punch and Judy show - it will be a puppet show where you have mis-cast the characters. This is what Punch enthusiasts hate.
In essence the Punch story is a series of escapades where Punch solves all his problems and irritations by dismissing them with a big stick. If someone annoys him he bashes them over the head. But in his fantasy land there are no consequences. Many get killed but nobody gets hurt. In the Punch and Judy world the mewling brat of a baby can be tossed out of the window without coming to any harm. The baby can be put in the sausage machine and emerge as a string of thin links, yet miraculously reappear for the next performance to plague Mr Punch yet again. It is akin to the Looney Toons world of Tom and Jerry where dynamite tied to a cat's tail results in nothing worse than a bald cat, with fur that regrows completely for the next sequence. There is monstrous violence from mouse traps and explosions, shot guns and steam rollers and characters get diced, flattened, inflated, deflated and squashed, yet never suffer any permanent damage.
In the Punch Show this slapstick requires a deft and expert touch - done badly and the result is unpleasant.
The puppets need to be deliberately crude and unrealistic. You can do things to a puppet that looks like a dressed up clothes peg which would shock if done to a cute baby doll puppet. The wooden-headedness of Punch puppets remains obvious, while in many forms of puppetry the puppets are designed to be lifelike and appealing.
Then the actual violence, the slapstickery, has to be fun. If it appears funny that's fine, if it appears brutal then you have failed.
I think part of Punch's appeal is a sort of race memory - and its an English race memory, maybe even London-centric. Its like a sense of humour - which can be peculiar to a country. Punch is happiest dressed in 17th Century clothes, and his world where the common man's perceived woes are the nagging wife, the mewling brat, officialdom and the Law, the medical quacks and the Church, is similarly stuck in a street life era a couple of centuries ago. Yet today's kids still respond, they still "get it" -(while visiting Canadians are horrified!)
It is all a bit of a mystery, this Punch & Judy business, and if you've never seen a live show then your first job is to do so. You cannot judge a Punch show on a screen. It is essentially a live show and must be watched in a crowd.
Your best bet is to arrange a holiday in London at the time of the annual May Fayre in Covent Garden where, on one Sunday, you can watch different Punch shows all day long. Who knows, you might just catch the bug. But beware, there's no known cure.
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Re: Intro

Postby lesclarke » 16 Jan 2017, 16:59

Hi Sarah, I think Chris has summed it up very well, and though there may be exceptions I reckon it's putting yourself at a real disadvantage if you have never seen a good live show. This is how you 'catch' the bug, get an idea of the Spirit of Punch, and it gives you something to aim at.

The Punch 'recipe' is well proven, mess about with it and you diminish its power and entertainment value, stick to the 'recipe' and you will be surprised at how powerful it can be, how involved people get in the show.

It appeals on many levels, and connects with an audience via basic human comedy often resulting from conflict, it builds and releases tension, and as Chris says is in part ritualistic.

Throw in a sense of the ridiculous, real characters, audience participation, and a little bit of your own personality and it is a powerful mix.

It takes a lot to put a show together, but it can all be tackles in small bits, a 15 minute show is only six or seven short scenes that follow on.

My own advice to anyone thinking of starting out is from the outset to tackle the swazzle, as it's' all about the swazzle'.
Mastering the swazzle is half the work done!

For instance, try making a Punch head, and a Judy head, crude is fine, toilet rolls and paper mache, then a baby from a bundle of rags wrapped around a piece of wood.

Then with a head on each hand, practice your Punch swazzled voice, and develop your Judy voice and personality, and let situations develop around baby sitting or kissy kissy scenarios.

Doing this you should be able to tell if Punch is for you.

If you can master the swazzle, half the work is done. Don't under estimate the work required to master the skill, but don't be frightened off, everyone varies you might just have the knack!

Final piece of advice, keep it simple, there is a real temptation to over complicate things.

Oh, and it's about action, so not too wordy...
Oh, and Punch is the Star...
Oh, and
As if I haven't got enough to do today, with all I've got to do today.
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Re: Intro

Postby Richard Coombs » 17 Jan 2017, 18:37

Hello Sarah

I can only echo what Chris and Les have said.

All sound advice.
Keep looking through the wealth of stuff on this site ...and get to see some live performances.
Good Luck

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