Disappearing Punch

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Disappearing Punch

Postby Tony James » 05 May 2009, 15:24

"Is that Punch & Judy Show still at Llandudno?" my neighbour asked last week.

"As far as I know it is" I replied.


I saw him today and asked about the show.

"Load of old rubbish" was his reply and here's what he told me.

They arrived in Llandudno during the morning and made their way over towards the pier for lunch. On their way they clocked the Punch booth just before the pier entrance. And some sort of Electric Show in a tent, pitched on a grass area. They went for lunch and came back around 2 o'clock.

"We looked all over but he'd gone. No sign of him. 2 o'clock on a Bank Holiday Monday. We asked a fellow by the pier and he said 'Has he gone? Must have made enough money this weekend and buggered off. He does that if it rains.' So we went to see the Electric Show and that was packing up. It was only 2 o'clock. No show."

He went on, using language I won't repeat, and expressing disappointment that shows are too soft to work in the rain. He reckoned they were probably amateurs earning too much money at a day job to do this one properly.

Shame, isn't it? That's just an ordinary member of the public, jumping to conclusions and considering show people to be unreliable. Trouble is attitudes like that stick and get repeated around other company.

I have to say though that I wished I could have packed up on Monday afternoon when the rain became a bit heavy and the likelihood of an audience looking bleak. Good job I didn't pack up. They came and stood there in the rain under their umbrellas and watched the last show through to the bitter end.

I've no doubt they did that for some of you, too.
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Postby James » 05 May 2009, 15:29

Why should they work if it rains Tony? Seems very sensible to me. They're not on a fee or a contract, and the booth has an open top and is exposed to the elements.

Why bother working to a small audience who will only cough up a few pounds?
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Postby Tony James » 05 May 2009, 15:50

It's called reliability James. Otherwise it's rather like a shop that only opens to suit the owner. people don't bother to use it.

It's Bank Holiday. The place is busy. The rain is spitting and light. And it's 2 o'clock, not 4 or 5 o'clock, I seem to recall standing in the rain in Llandudno long ago and watching the show, with a crowd albeit smaller than a sunny day would produce.

If you can pull one or more people to the warm up, you'll pull more and then you get in and work it and that will pull a lot more. I know that. I'm sure you do to. We've all done it many times.

It struck the punter it was a bit third rate. Struck me too.

Not to turn out at all is one thing. To be there and take it away at 2 in the afternoon strikes me as ever so slightly premature.

I'd put a roof on the thing and get on with it.
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Postby James » 05 May 2009, 16:12

As one of the few people on the board that does regularly work a bottled pitch, and did so over the bank holiday weekend I don't see any problem with it. It's perfectly possible to work a pitch on an occasional basis.

Had they advertised a show and then cancelled then maybe the public could grumble but this doesn't seem to be the case.

If you can pull one or more people to the warm up, you'll pull more and then you get in and work it and that will pull a lot more. I know that. I'm sure you do to. We've all done it many times.


Yes, but you may only pull a certain number, and money is the thing that counts here surely. I'm sure the Codmans know as much about working the Llandudno pitch as you, and I'm sure they had their reasons. You don't turn down the a large paying audience.

I have to say though that I wished I could have packed up on Monday afternoon when the rain became a bit heavy and the likelihood of an audience looking bleak.


Well there you go then. You wanted to go home as well but were contracted to stay.
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Postby Tony James » 05 May 2009, 17:12

I'm certain the Codman's know more about working Llandudno than anyone else and by a mile. that wasn't the point I was making nor their right or otherwise to perform as and when they choose.

They are there. People know they are there. Not every once in a while, as and when. permanently there, for the current season at least. And with a history of being there over how long? 150 years?

In those circumstances, a professional entertainer, with the show there, at a weekend and a Bank Holiday weekend to boot has some professional responsibility to their audience to at least be there and not to change their mind and be there one moment building anticipation and away a short while later.

They have of course every right to do whatever they wish.

But it's a shame. It is as i said before, as self defeating as only opening the shop as and when the whim takes you. Your decision of course. Also the publics decision to say 'Unreliable' and not to bother in future.

Let's hope Llandudno enjoys such crowds this season that disappointment and unreliability won't count for anything.

Not at least till the crowds thin off again and the pennies become fewer.
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Postby Chris » 05 May 2009, 18:55

I think you are out of order Tony. You are criticising on hearsay evidence. You weren't there, you don't know the circumstances. You don't know whether times were advertised or not. You don't know what the conditions were. Your only evidence is from a sour member of the public.

I don't know the full circumstances either but I do know what the weather was like, and I know what the forecast was. Saturday and Sunday were fine and sunny. Monday was predicted to be grey and raining early, clearing later (that was for this part of North Wales). In fact it never cleared - it rained all day. So I can quite see the Codmans might have brought out the booth in the morning hoping for the weather to clear. They do not have a pitch where people will sit in the pouring rain and watch a show! When it became obvious that the rain was set in for the day I can quite see why they would decide to pack in. And to remove the booth from view seems a pretty clear way of announcing that there won't be a show and avoiding false anticipations.

Also the most salient point you neglected to mention was the fact that the bank holiday Monday was the final day of Llandudno's 3 day event "The Victorian Extravaganza" which has fairground and other entertainment all attracting visitors away from the seafront and the area where the Codmans perform. Everything is concentrated on the main shopping street, and on the Bodafon fields area right at the other end of the promenade. Thus obviously on a wet and dismal day people are likely to keep to the covered areas where they can see loads of activity, rather than venturing onto the top of the promenade just to see if anything is going on.

Another relevant point is that Monday afternoon is when Llandudno loses a lot of the family visitors to the neighbouring Colwyn Bay. Llandudno's is a three day event, but Colwyn Bay has "Prom Day", a very big one day event on the Monday. A lot of Llandudno's visitors having had two days of their events come over to Colwyn Bay on the Monday, while the one day visitors tend to sample Llandudno in the morning and Llandudno in the afternoon. This has been the pattern for the past 12 years or more.

If I had been the Codmans I would have seen the weather, seen the lack of people, and made exactly the same decision.
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Postby Tony James » 05 May 2009, 19:10

As always Chris, you are perfectly correct and I accept all your points.

How was it at Colwyn Bay? Did you show Punch outside or were you in your theatre with the marionettes?
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Postby Chris » 05 May 2009, 22:22

I did Punch on the Prom - managed only three shows (whereas usually on prom day I do five). I was lucky in that when my groundsheet which the kids were to sit on had become a paddling pool, before I'd even started the first show, I did manage to get the Council to deliver 30 or so chairs. I found that by wiping these with a towel and getting the kids to sit on them quickly I could at least keep the seats dry! The parents then stood behind. And as is usual with Punch, you start with a couple of dozen but this quickly becomes 100 once you have started.

It drissled and showered all day, but only during the first show was there danger of losing the audience - I did hold most of them. Thank goodness for the modern fashion for hoodies.

I did my last show at 4.20 and this was the first time the seats were dry and I didn't need to towel them. Of course the sun decided to come out at 4.45pm. We were due to start moving off site at 5pm.
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Postby Nick Jackson » 06 May 2009, 00:06

I'd have done exactly the same: when the rain is pouring down on you, soaking all the dolls so you'll have to dry them out before tomorrow, to say nothing of the damage to the amplifier – I'd have packed up and gone home.

Few audiences are willing to stand around for 40-50 minutes in the rain. And when you're doing between two and three of the shows shows a day – have to be out again the next day and every day until the end of September – would you really stand there getting soaked when nothing's coming in to the bottle?
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Re: Disappearing Punch

Postby Nick Jackson » 06 May 2009, 00:24

Tony James wrote:He reckoned they were probably amateurs earning too much money at a day job to do this one properly.

Except if this was the case, they wouldn't be able to be there every day of the season.
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Postby Tony James » 06 May 2009, 01:12

Nick - the weather is really only a little to do with it. If it rains, the frame should keep you relatively dry. Your amplifier should be fit for the job - built for outdoor use. Rain should not be a problem or in the UK you're not going to work very much.

Yes, your principle figures will get wet - Punch, Judy, Joey, Crocodile in varying degrees of wetness according to how you use them. You hang them up at the digs and they dry out overnight. That's what they have to do. I do four shows a day and mine can get very wet.

Next morning, if they are not perfectly dry you stick a hairdryer in them but not too far or you may trigger the thermal cut-out which is time wasting waiting for the thing to click back in. I've been doing this for years.

You and I know they're not amateurs at Llandudno - well Codman isn't, I've never heard of the Electric Show whatever that was or is - but your Joe Public doesn't know, does he?

He goes out for a Bank Holiday by the seaside, probably the first they have had in years. They always go abroad for a a week or ten days at Bank Holiday times. Come to think of it, he was at home for Easter too. Probably the credit crunch biting.

Anyway, off they go for a day out, arrive. notice the show is there and look forward to seeing it after lunch. Only at two o'clock it isn't there and they feel cheated. If it hadn't been there in the first place they probably wouldn't have noticed. But at two o'clock they expected at least one show.

Anyway, I'm with Chris on this one. In spite of rain and misery and wet figures - tell me about them, the last two seasons have been a washout - but like me Chris gets out there and he does it. And when you do it, when you give them something to watch you pull an even bigger crowd. And then people are happy.

And I think that's being a real pro.
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Postby Nick Jackson » 06 May 2009, 07:36

Tony James wrote:If it rains, the frame should keep you relatively dry.

Well it doesn't – because rain comes downwards and, therefore, hits you on the bonce.

And one might have a great devotion to Joe Public, but standing in the rain in front of them for an hour is not likely to get much in the bottle.

Plus, as Chris says, have you ever seen Llandudno prom over May weekend? It's the one time it's deserted. If I was the Codmans, I'd book it as my annual weekend off.

The Codman show is wheeled out first thing every day, regardless of the weather – and, given that it's stored on the usually busy pier, and can't be put away (for simple health and safety reasons) until the crowds have gone, there can't have been many people around at the time your friend visited.

Like many others, I've performed at paid booking in all weathers. But when it comes to busking, a real pro, as you put it, a real busker, has to constantly gauge the weather, the crowd and the potential bottle. Surely, only an amateur would stand around in the rain for free.
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Postby CvdC » 06 May 2009, 08:53

Punch and Judy in the rain. Hmm has a ring to it. Good title for a book.
One of the best shows I have seen was a somewhat aquatic experience. The audience all put up their umbrellas and formed a rather leaky communal roof of sorts. My first May Fayre - how will I ever forget it? Not that it will be like that this year. Will it?
I still cannot understand how the Englishman grumbles about the weather so much. It is a wet soggy place. Get used to it. There is a posting on this board asking about roofs. It is obvious - make it water proof and angled so the water doesn't pool in the middle and drip inside. But expect that it will get wet - often.
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Postby Nick Jackson » 06 May 2009, 11:23

CvdC wrote:I still cannot understand how the Englishman grumbles about the weather so much.

Well I'm not grumbling about the weather,
I'm grumbling about someone
who's grumbling about a third party who chose not to stand in the rain.
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Postby Tony James » 06 May 2009, 12:13

This is an eyeopener to me. It never crossed my my mind that anyone would work an outdoor show in a frame without a roof.

Indeed, i can't recall seeing any plans or suggestions published for conventional outdoor frames without a roof. Indoors is different but for effective blacking out for working behind a scrim some form of roof cover is essential.

Yes, I'm aware that Codman's is a big thing and worked hands above but I am still surprised. A roof protects your head from the burning sun - when we get some! - and from the rain. Makes a lot of sense to me.

Chris, the British have grumbled about the weather for a long time. I'm not sure how long as according to experts our weather has changed quite a bit over the last 800 years.

Very warm in the middle ages - we grew vines and produced red wines which need a warm climate. Perishingly cold winters in the 1700s and early 1800s with the famous Frost Fairs held on the frozen River Thames - the Chipperfields reckon working the Frost Fairs was their early introduction into circus though that could just be a flight of fancy!

the fact is Chris, for a travelling Punch show wet weather makes life harder. The cover is heavy with water - even the modern acrylic materials hold some although they do drain well - and difficult to handle and keep off the ground which will put mud on your cover.

All the fabrics used - bunting, flags etc - are harder to handle wet - and you have to be careful packing. A wet cover left in contact with wood and metal overnight can appear next day with rust coloured marks and stains. You have to keep them separate.

Figures as we know get wet from several shows in the rain. By the end of the day punch can be wet to the lining and always needs the hairdryer treatment next morning.

Your own clothes become wet and it is not difficult to be soaked to the skin when pulling down. I was three times last season soaked right through to my underwear and had to find refuge in a tent to change right down to my underwear. Just moving the car to alongside the refuge tent wetted the driving seat.

I have seen far too many circus and fairground workers old long before their time from self neglect, working and living in wet through clothes. It wears a man down and out.

And on top of all that heavy rain softens grounds and you can be ages getting off, waiting for a tow from a tractor. And if you are not careful your fresh dry clothes will be wet through again.

Still, lets be cheerful. We've had all that for the last three seasons. This year is said to be hot and dry and sunny. But outdoor shows - in my opinion - will still need a roof over their heads, if only to keep the sun off.

Why do people not have a roof?
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