Review of The Punch & Judy Show: History, Tradition and Meaning by Robert Leach

I have been reading books about puppetry almost as long as I have been interested in puppets.  Did I ever mention that two of first words that I learned to write on my own are the words puppet and circus?  I remember sitting at the kitchen table, asking my mother how to spell these words.  I guess I wrote them so often I was bound to become either a puppeteer or an elephant trainer in the circus (I LOVE elephants!).

Puppeteer Terrence Burke of Wump Mucket Puppets with Cyril the Sea Serpent

Terrence Burke reads "The Punch & Judy Show" to Cyril

The Punch & Judy Show: History, Tradition and Meaning by Robert Leach (1985 University of Georgia Press ISBN 0820308005) was a true delight to read and learn about Punch and his “professors” who have been delighting audiences for hundreds of years.  The author’s research is simply amazing, and follows Mr. Punch from his Italian roots to the streets and village fetes of England.  The show’s tradition has changed with the times, moving from the hustle and bustle of the street, to the Victorian drawing rooms, and finally to the holiday beach resorts.  Forever changing, yet forever part of the culture.  How many puppets can make that claim?  If you are interested in puppetry’s history, this is a great book to learn from.  I am fortunate to have found it among the collection of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County since it is out of print and rather pricey.

Cover of The Punch & Judy Show by Robert Leach

Cover of The Punch & Judy Show by Robert Leach

Reading about Mr. Punch and his poor wife Judy has inspired me to come up with my own variation of this time tested puppet play in the future, with a 21st century American twist of course!  My wife Lara has even expressed interest in helping perform it!  Be sure to check back to this blog for future developments of the Wump Mucket Puppets version of Punch & Judy.  Keep in mind that originally Punch was a street show and very adult in content.  We shall see what we come up with.  A puppet slam piece?  Perhaps something for a Fringe festival?  Maybe we’ll just busk our merry way through the streets of Cincinnati.

Mister Punch picture by The Owl

Learn more about Punch & Judy:

Don’t swallow your Swazzle!