A home for Punch

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A home for Punch

Postby CvdC » 22 Aug 2007, 07:35

I sat down last night with my two children as they watched 102 Dalmatians.
And what did I see?
It was the good Professor John Styles in his very own theatre set up in Queen Mary's garden. What a setup! Very decorative and complete with seats and a ticket box.
Oh why is it that life cannot imitate art?
It has been my experience that I am always true from my point of view, and am often wrong from the point of view of my honest critics. I know that we are both right from our respective points of view. - Gandhi (Having a bob each way.)
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Postby David Wilde » 22 Aug 2007, 07:46

One day Chris,it will happen again!
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Postby Chris » 22 Aug 2007, 08:32

I personally hope it never happens. It would kill Punch and Judy. It would rapidly go the way of Guignol, Polichinelle and Kasperl.




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Postby CvdC » 22 Aug 2007, 09:46

I really know what you mean Chris. And I agree, but there is a middle ground.
If the venue were never the exclusive domain of any single performer the show wouldn't become so ... standardised or monopolised.

If you had a roster so that there were a variety of good performers as well as times for new shows you would get a reliable series of quality shows plus opening opportunities for new comers and experimenters.

The venue would provide for the huge numbers of tourists who come to London wanting a quintessential English experience. Let's face it they are not going to go to Crystal Palace Park, Weymouth or whatever village fete happens to be on at the time (more's the pity).

I am sorry I have raised this issue again but I really truly think that there is an enormous benefit to be gained for performers.
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stomping time

Postby Trev » 22 Aug 2007, 10:42

oooh, do I hear a 'stomping' sound coming? :lol:
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Postby johnstoate » 22 Aug 2007, 12:06

Carlsberg! (Probably)
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Postby billywand » 22 Aug 2007, 12:42

When the set for the film was made, It was based on the Proscenium design of Johns booth, which has his name above it.

The set designer used photos supplied by John, and asked in all sincerety if John minded them copying his design with his name emblazoned across the top !!

What an advertisement !!!!!!!!
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Postby Chris » 22 Aug 2007, 13:01

No Chris, I don't think that you do know what I mean. I agree with you that it would probably be good for performers but it would be a disaster for Punch and Judy.

Punch and Judy have remained largely unchanged for over a century because they haven't needed to change. They have constantly sought a new audience and therefore Punchmen could have the luxury of putting their efforts largely into perfecting their skill rather than writing new scripts, finding new themes, painting new scenery and creating new characters.

Most Punchmen spend a lifetime with one basic show, with a series of novelty routines which they can mix and match to keep the show fresh for repeat audiences. That is why good Punchmen become so adept at the mechanics of their routines which is something that singles out Punch from other forms of puppetry.

As someone involved in building Britain's first ever permanent puppet theatre, and in the running of it for the past 49 years, I know that however excellent a show is you do need constant change to keep audiences coming. It would be no different with a theatre devoted to Punch. Very soon you would have Mr. Punch's Christmas Show and Mr. Punch's Undersea Adventure. Anything to get people coming back. In Victorian times when people left the streets for the seaside Punch followed. He couldn't do that with a theatre on his back.

Of course I know you feel that it would be different in London because of the constant influx of tourists - but would it? Some West End shows do have long runs - but none for a couple of Centuries? True The Mousetrap became iconic and did run and run, but not like Punch.

Also I would point out that there is a permanent puppet theatre in London - The Little Angel. It has staged Punch and Judy on occasions. Have these indicated an enormous London audience for Punch and Judy? I think not.

A scheme similar to the one you outline was part of The London Dome attraction - regular Punch shows in custom designed setting using different performers. Reportedly it was quite often difficult to get an audience.

Covent Garden is virtually a permanent pitch for street entertainers. The Punch men, some very very good, who have performed there haven't found the tourists sufficiently attractive to keep the shows there on a regular basis.

So wherever you could find to site your permanent theatre I think you could not perform but one show. You would have to diversify to have any hope of an audience. I believe that this could change the nature of Punch who I feel must remain itinerant.




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Postby lesclarke » 22 Aug 2007, 18:57

I think your point Chris about 'one basic show' can often get overlooked by new performers, with the temptation to keep chopping and changing if things are not going as well as hoped for, and then thinking the solution is a new show, new characters or some kind of gimmick. It's hard work to write and develop your own show, and as it starts to work it's slightly frustrating to realise that only after further numerous performances can it have properly 'matured'

In its early development a show may need real changes, but the sooner it settles down, the sooner the slow, gradual process of it being mastered and refined can begin, and the changes will be realtively minor. Some refinements can be reasoned out intellectually, possibly to address a problem, such as a slow part of the show. Some of the best ones will come from inspiration during the performance. Also the old adage - if it works keep it in - if it don't work take it out ...but at least give it a few chances!

Just recently dipped back into Glyn Edwards' 'Successful P&J' book, and his point 'It's not what you do it's the way that you do it' certainly has a lot of truth in it. Although obviously the combination of a great script and performance skills is a winner.
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Postby CvdC » 22 Aug 2007, 22:43

I DO understand you. In fact I think you have convinced me. But what about the seadside shows? How would a show in a London park be any different from a seaside show that is there everyday over summer for year after year?

But maybe tourists aren't interested in Punch and Judy. They seem to have a love affair with telephone boxes. Less of a challenge I suppose.

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Postby Chris » 23 Aug 2007, 18:52

what about the seadside shows? How would a show in a London park be any different from a seaside show that is there everyday over summer for year after year?


Perhaps a show in a park might not be so different to a beach show, but as for the more permanent home for Punch you advocated surely the differences are obvious - a temporary outdoor site for a few weeks in the summer, with only a rent to pay for the time you are there, contrasted with a building with rates and licences and insurance and upkeep, outgoings which continue throughout the year whether you are working or not. Then there's things like heating and lighting and publicity and ... definitely not a fair comparison with a seaside beach show.

But anyway leave that aside, what seaside shows? - the seaside shows scarcely exist. The few that do continue struggle to do so largely out of love and enthusiasm. If you are to use them to support your argument then you have lost before you start.

The Punch shows that are profitable, consistently so, and there are many, are the ones that move to find their audience -- a day or two at the seaside, a stately home, an agricultural show, a few birthday parties, in-store promotions, corporate family days etc etc. Pretty much the same way Punchmen have always had to make their livings. Pretty much the way they have survived the centuries and made Punch the unique form of puppetry we still enjoy.


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Postby Miraiker » 23 Aug 2007, 19:45

You've summed it up pretty well there Chris.

The only way we can keep Punch on Clacton beach is their flexibility on our appearances.
They accept that we can only put on a show there when we have no other booking, that we cannot turn down a paid booking to perform on the beach and they encourage us by giving us a secure lock-up for our beach booth right on the sea front.
The council and tourism department are also quick to pass on our details to anyone approaching them about Punch & Judy.

Without all the other mix of bookings we would have had to get proper jobs years ago.
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Postby CvdC » 23 Aug 2007, 21:18

Heating??
The setup I remember from the film was a decorated tent with fold up chairs. I was orginally thinking of a setup nothing than a booth based on that which Mark uses in Weymouth. A glorified telephone booth if you can imagine such a thing. Each performer who uses the booth could bring along a proscenium of their own design to help individualise the booth. So basically it would be a red & white striped box with a lockable door and stage area. In between shows it would act as a sort of sculpture. The cover for the stage could have a painting of Punch and Judy on it.

And indeed you would only set it up through the summer tourist season.

I would expect the performers who use such a booth would do what Maraiker does as well. The beauty of the internet is that in a shared arrangement a performer can book to use a pitch and if they cancel because they get a paid booking then another performer can replace that person when they see that it is vacant on a web site.

My question though was about the effect on the show. What is the difference between a regular pitch in a park and on the beach?
It has been my experience that I am always true from my point of view, and am often wrong from the point of view of my honest critics. I know that we are both right from our respective points of view. - Gandhi (Having a bob each way.)
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Postby David Wilde » 23 Aug 2007, 23:20

Like the mug,are you making them now instead of the puppets!

Cant see a differance between the park and the beach,have been doing the same show for years in the same spots,children are very repetative by nature and will wach the same show time after time.

I have added things breifley in the show,but only for a few mins!

If I had a semi permanent pitch in the park I work in I think I would do ok,but you need other attractions to bring in the people,so you have a big enough turn over to make money!

Lets face it you would need at least 300-400 people a day to come into your encloushore for the kids holidays and weekends through out the summer to make the venture worthwhile!

This summer has prooved how much we reliey on the weather,and weather working in a Park or a Beach,if there is no sun,your stuffed!

P.S can you send the mug by special post,dont want it get broken!
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Postby Chris » 23 Aug 2007, 23:22

I think you are quibbling now Chris. I am sure if you want to you can find the answers in my previous replies.
Anyway if I haven't explained sufficiently by now, I'm not going to get through am I?
Your original idea was for London, and not just for the Summer, therefore unlike your tent in film-fantasy land you would certainly need some form of heating in this country if you expect anyone to sit and watch a show. I don't think frost bite was the English experience you had in mind.
Also if you accept what Miraiker says is true, which you do, then it surely makes my point.
Miraiker said:
we can only put on a show there when we have no other booking, that we cannot turn down a paid booking to perform on the beach

while I said:
the seaside shows scarcely exist. The few that do continue struggle to do so largely out of love and enthusiasm.

Not dissimilar sentiments surely?

Where I can agree with you Chris is when you say:
maybe tourists aren't interested in Punch and Judy. They seem to have a love affair with telephone boxes.

There is a hell of a lot more in London to grab the tourist interest than Punch and Judy - which can, by its nature, surely only be of any possible interest to the English speaking tourists - the Americans (who will say "hell, Punch and Judy, we can see that at home") and the Australians - tell me honestly Chris, how many of your countrymen would put a puppet show (however quintessentially English) higher on their list than St Paul's, Buck Palace, The Tower, Petticoat Lane, The Houses of Parliament, The Thames, Kew Gardens, Soho, The Mall, the great shopping streets, the famous shops, theatreland, Speaker's Corner, Hyde Park, The Serpentine, Madam Tussauds, Greenwich, The Globe..........?
Then remember that the bulk of tourists are tour parties, not individuals, and tour guides and tour operators generally take people to places and attractions where there is a good slice of commission for themselves.

But I think my strongest argument is that despite the fact that after your few weeks sojourn over here you think you have spotted a great potential that we are missing, I feel that the London Punch men aren't so short-sighted or lacking in business acumen that they haven't considered ideas such as yours, and many others, and tried some, and have found them wanting. They are the troops on the ground.



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