Ten facts about Punch & Judy

Ahead of Little Angel By the Sea, our summer show that gives a breath of fresh air to Punch & Judy, Puppetry Trainees Deanna and Palesa have been investigating the history of the traditional British seaside puppet show. Read on to find out some interesting facts about Mr Punch and his sidekick, and come to watch the show to see how we’ve given the original format a fun twist.

Little Angel By the Sea is on for a limited run of three weeks at Little Angel Studios,
from 14 July – 5 August.

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1. Although Punch and Judy are thought of as English, they actually originated in Italy – by Italian mask performers in Commedia dell’arte shows. They created the masked character Punchinella / Punchinello, later named Punch. The name may have developed from the word Pulcino, meaning chicken, referring to the character’s beak-like mask and squeaky voice.

2. The man or woman that performs Punch and Judy is called a professor.

3. A swazzle is like a miniature kazoo that is held in your mouth. It is placed between the tongue and the roof of the mouth, and when a professor blows, or “talks” through it, the reed vibrates to create Mr. Punch’s high-pitched, buzzing voice.

4. The first version of Punch performed in England was in Covent Garden on May 9 1662 as is recorded in Samuel Pepys diary, and so this is considered to be Punch’s English birthday.

5. Performers relied on donations from those watching the show to earn a living.Collecting the money was, and still is known as “Bottling” as the money was collected in a bottle.

6. The storyline can be adapted each time the show is performed, but each version remains topical and current.

7. As Punch and Judy represent part of our culture and history, they were named amongst the first 12 icons of England, alongside Double-decker buses, Sherlock Holmes, and the bowler hat.

8. In earlier shows, Toby the Dog was a real animal.

9. The show takes place in a mobile booth that makes it easy for the puppeteers to tour around.

10. In early Punch and Judy Shows, Punch regularly gets into fights with the devil. Nowadays, in many productions the devil has transformed into a crocodile.

By Deanna Mathers and Palesa Esuk