THE PUNCH CALL, SWAZZLE or SWATCHEL
The old showmen were at great pains to conceal the secrets of their art. The old marionette players of the variety stage made sure all the puppets were hidden by canvas screens before and after every performance lest some visitor backstage should see they were only worked by two sticks; the Punchmen guarded the secret of Mr. Punch's squeaky voice lest anyone should see how simple was the instrument employed. Knowing the methods employed, however, is a very different kettle of fish to knowing how to employ the methods skilfully as any aspirant to Punch showmanship will quickly discover.
Perfectly clear enunciation of dialogue in Punch's voice through the use of a Punch call, known by various names but usually as the Swazzle or Swatchel, is virtually impossible, hence the employment of an interpreter out front as happened in the old days Tolerably good enunciation of most of Punch's limited dialogue is a feat of practice and skill; poor enunciation is common even among professional Punchmen. Some people can produce an excellent and clear voice for Punch without the use of a Swazzle, an obvious advantage as far as clarity is concerned, but this voice lacks the hard rasp of a swazzle-produced voice and also the ear-splitting trumpet-like quality of the noises that an exultant or incensed Punch emits.
The secret of the Swazzle has long been revealed in that it is a tiny reed like device which the showman conceals in his mouth and speaks through. Reliable information on how to construct the swazzle, that being the name of the secret device, is less easily found, and information on how it is actually used can only normally be had by individual private tuition.
In order to go some way to placate some members of the profession who wish to preserve the secrecy, and to limit the information to those who are genuinely interested and not merely curious I am making a charge for this information.
I have prepared a short e-booklet which details what the swazzle is, how the swazzle can be made, where to obtain the materials, and how to practise to achieve the authentic voice of Mr. Punch. There is also information on technique and on how to maintain the swazzle in good working condition.
This information is not easily found however widely you search, and much has been discovered by personal experience over 50 years in the business.
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