by Prof. Glyn Edwards
Mr. Punch is like lightning trapped in a bottle. Once uncorked there’s a huge amount of energy quite literally at your fingertips and that’s where the fun starts. If you can control the energy you can channel it as you choose: if you let it run loose….well, you know all about the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
In a day’s workshop there’s opportunity to uncork the lightning bottle in a safe space and see what possibilities it might offer.
Unlike most puppets Mr. Punch comes with a past you can’t escape. There’s a lot of accumulated baggage: some helpful and some well past its best-by date. In his three and a half centuries journey from Commedia clown on strings via Victorian glove puppet with a Gothic twist (they did love their ‘Orrible Murders did the Victorians) and onwards to the 21st C retro-entertainment of choice at countless village green festivities, Mr. Punch has had to serve the tastes of a very wide range of audiences indeed.
In truth he needs to serve but one audience at a time. The one immediately in front of him. In learning how to do this he has kept himself in work all these years.
Described in terms of computer code the Punch and Judy Show is open source (“denoting software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified”.) That’s pretty similar to how we see other timeless tales such as the story of Robin Hood. There’s no standard version or script, just a set of characters and incidents and influences which (in the case of Mr. Punch) range from mediaeval drama to Commedia, Music Hall and contemporary culture.
That’s where the ‘Professor’ (we’ll use the time-honoured honorific) comes in. The show is created through the two hands and the brain of the performer. The Prof might be hidden out of sight in a striped booth, but it’s their personality that’s on show. If Mr. Punch ever comes across as ‘nasty, brutish and short’ it’s a description of the Prof and not of the puppet.
Punch and Judy is a living tradition that depends on the wit of the people through whom it travels down the generations. It’s very much a solo show: not unlike storytelling or stand-up comedy. But guiding you through that solo show is an immortal character: The Lord of Misrule himself; rule breaker, convention flouter and creator of a world turned upside down.
Mr. Punch welcomes all comers to have a go. It’s not a tradition you need approach with any previous experience. If you needed to undergo formal training in order to be a ‘Prof’ the whole thing would have lost its point and died out a long time ago. You don’t have to read music to be a musician but you do have to be musical.
There are skills to acquire, yes, but what’s most important for a Prof are a particular set of five senses: common sense, sense of humour, sense of rhythm, sense of mischief, and sense of the absurd.
Mr. Punch supplies the star charisma, and a day spent up close and personal with him is a day you’ll certainly remember.
An introduction to Punch and Judy Performance With ‘Prof’ Glyn Edwards is at Little Angel Theatre on Sunday 15th May, 10am – 5pm. Call our box office for more information and bookings: 020 7226 1787 or find out more HERE.