These film clips celebrate the history of Punch & Judy, from the earliest known recording to current practitioners (known as Professors) discussing their art.Read more about the history of Punch and Judy
Punch and Judy: 1901
Silent film made by Mitchell and Kenyon in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1901, showing Professor Henry Bailey’s Punch & Judy show (with permission from the BFI).
Punch and Judy: The Past
Professor Mark Poulton discusses the history of Punch and Judy in Britain. Recorded in 2012 in Weymouth.
Professor Mark Poulton: “Are you ready? I thought you’d be louder than that. Are you ready? I still can’t hear you, are you ready?"
It’s Mr Punch’s 350th birthday this year and we’re having a big party in Weymouth, the Big Grin Maritime Mix to celebrate.
We’ve chosen Weymouth as the venue because of the long history Punch and Judy has at Weymouth, it dates back to the 1880s here with continuous performances apart from the war years, and it’s one of the very last, if not the last permanent seaside pitch.
It was only in the 1860s that Punch and Judy came to the seasides, when the seaside holiday boom started. It was a busking show, Punch would go wherever there were people.
I’ve built a replica Victorian style Punch and Judy show for the Big Grin birthday this year. As you can see, it’s blue and blue and white checks because it wasn’t red and white stripes back then.
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. I’ve brought you to this spot for a reason. Punch and Judy was seen at Weymouth in 1880 by a man called Professor Murray. And he had a show like this and he wheeled it up and down.
This is where he used to do the shows but at that time this was still beach. So I think we’re going to do three cheers for Professor Murray. Hip Hip! Hooray!”
Weymouth was a typical seaside resort, in keeping with places more like Margate Blackpool, Brighton for example.
You would get all the people coming down from places like Swindon and Bristol when they had the week off work.
The 1950s were incredibly busy, that was probably the golden years.
There would have been Punch and Judy at every major resort. At Weymouth there was Frank Edmonds and he was here for fifty odd years.
He pushed his show from Chester all the way to Weymouth, stopping off at towns and villages and doing shows to earn money and then at the end of the summer he’d push it all the way back up to Chester.
“We can do it louder than that. Hello! That’s very nice, you enjoying it so far?”
With performing on the beach I definitely feel like I’ve got a connection with the past showmen because it’s certainly not a seaside thing any more.
I’m 40 and to think that I’ve got more experience working on the beach than any one else living is a worrying thing. People think of Punch and Judy at the seaside and it’s all nostalgia, it’s romantic idealism. And there is something very special and unique about watching Punch and Judy on the beach. It’s just magical.
Punch and Judy: Professor Glyn Edwards
Extract from a traditional seaside Punch and Judy performance by Professor Glyn Edwards, recorded in 2005 in Aberystwyth.
PUNCH: (ENTERS SINGING) “Oh I do like to be beside the seaside. I do like to be beside the sea. And there’s someone else beside who I like to be beside, beside the seaside beside the sea.” (CHUCKLES) That’s the way to do it!
JUDY: Now you look after the baby while I go shopping..
JUDY:…. and teach the baby to walk.
JUDY: Teach the baby to walk. It’s not rocket science. Bye bye (EXITS LEAVING PUNCH WITH BABY)
PUNCH: Bye bye. (TO BABY) Come on baby. Walky walky walky.
PUNCH: Oi! I said walky walky walky
PUNCH: Come on you soppy baby. (STANDS BABY UP) There we go. Come on. Walky walky walky. (BABY FALLS FLAT)
PUNCH: Whoops. Oi stop it. (STANDS BABY UP) Come on I said ‘walky walky walky’ (BABY FALLS FLAT. PUNCH STANDS IT UP) Stop it. I said ‘walky walky w... (BABY FALLS FLAT) .
PUNCH: (STANDS BABY UP) Stop it! Walky…(BABY SUDDENLY STARTS MOVING AROUND AT SPEED WHILST PUNCH TRIES TO CATCH IT) Stop it. Come here. Oi baby. (PUNCH AND BABY COLLIDE)
PUNCH: Oooh. Poor baby.
PUNCH: Be quiet.
PUNCH: Shut up!!
JUDY: (ENTERS) Here Mr. Punch was that my baby crying?
JUDY: Yes he was.
PUNCH: No he wasn’t.
JUDY: (TO AUDIENCE) Was my baby crying everybody?
JUDY: (FETCHING SLAPSTICK) I shall fetch my slapstick and I shall give you a big smack.
PUNCH: A Big Mac?
JUDY: No not a Big Mac.
JUDY: A big smack. (WALLOPS HIM TIL PUNCH TAKES SLAPSTICK FROM HER.) No! That’s my stick.
PUNCH: So what.
JUDY: Don’t you ‘so what’ me. It’s my stick. Give it to me.
JUDY: I said ‘Give me the stick’.
PUNCH: OK. (WALLOPPS HER) That’s the way to do it.
JUDY: Oooh. You are so in trouble now! (EXITS)
POLICEMAN: (OFFSTAGE) Hello, hello hello.
PUNCH: Ooooh. It’s a policeman. Whoops. (EXITS)
POLICEMAN: (ENTERS) Right. Now then, now then, (PUNCH APPEARS FROM BEHIND AND KNOCKS HIM FLATWITH SLAPSTICK) Now OW!!!(LAUGHTER)
POLICEMAN: (PICKING HIMSELF UP) I said ‘Now then, now then,… (PUNCH APPEARS FROM BEHIND AND KNOCKS HIM FLAT)…now OW!’
POLICEMAN: (PICKING HIMSELF UP) I said… (PUNCH KNOCKS HIM FLAT)
POLICEMAN: I’ll have to find that Mr. Punch. He’s messing about again. You were watching so tell me is he hiding upstairs or downstairs?
POLICEMAN: Thank you. I’ll go and look for him downstairs. (EXITS) (PUNCH APPEARS)
(ENTER POLICEMAN AS PUNCH EXITS DOWN.)
(POLICEMAN AND PUNCH POP ALTERNATELY UP AND DOWN INTO VIEW)
AUDIENCE/POLICEMAN: Downstairs. Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down.
(PUNCH STAYS IN PLACE WHILE POLICEMAN KEEPS ON MOVING)
POLICEMAN: Up. Down. Up. Down. Up (PUNCH KNOCKS HIM FLAT)
POLICEMAN: I’ll try again. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down. Up
(POLICEMAN POPS UP AND DOWN AS BEFORE WITHOUT SEEING PUNCH ALONGSIDE COPYING HIM. PUNCH THEN KNOCKS HIM FLAT).
POLICEMAN: Tell you what. Where is he now?
AUDIENCE: BEHIND YOU!
POLICEMAN: (SEES HIM) Now look you. You’ve been a naughty boy. I’m going to take you to jail.
PUNCH: No you’re not.
POLICEMAN: Yes I am. You come with me when I count three. A-one, a-two
PUNCH: A-three. (KNOCKS HIM FLAT) That’s the way to do it!
TRANSITION TO END SCENE
DEVIL: (WITH PITCHFORK). You’ve lost your stick. Now what do you say!
PUNCH: (TO AUDIENCE) Help! Help! Help!
DEVIL: Too late for help. Got you. (PRODDING HIM WITH PITCHFORK) Got you. Got you.
(PUNCH GRABS PITCHFORK)
DEVIL: NO. That’s my stick. Let me have it.
DEVIL: Let me have it!
PUNCH: OK. (WALLOPS DEVIL TO THE FLOOR) THAT’S the way to do it! (LAUGHS AND KNOCKS DEVIL BELOW) Bye bye Devil. Bye bye.
JUDY (ENTERS) Ooh Mr. Punch I saw that up there. You clever old thing. You were fighting with the Devil and you beat him in a fight. You’re my hero. For getting rid of the Devil we’ll all give you three cheers. (TO AUDIENCE) Three cheers for Mr. Punch. Hip hip…
JUDY: Hip hip
JUDY: Hip hip
Punch and Judy: The Future
The Punch and Judy College of Professors are among the leading practitioners of Punch and Judy. They met in various groups during 2012 to mark the 350 anniversary of Punch's first known appearance in Britain.
Clive Chandler: Today is about the College of Professors recording what we do, and what we think about Punch and Judy to get that on the record.
Gary Wilson: I’m the youngest member of the Punch and Judy College of Professors and we’re here today to make a special video, which is part of Mr Punch’s 350th birthday celebrations.
It’s really nice to get some of the best performers around together in one place to talk about the tradition and what’s really important.
Martin Reeve: What to you is a Punch and Judy show?
John Styles: It’s got to be irreverent…
Clive Chandler: I think it’s particularly valuable because Punch and Judy is mostly defined by other commentators, usually academics or journalists who always seem to set the agenda and therefore the perception of what we do as a craft, as an art form.
Gary Wilson: Mr Punch has always changed with the times right from when he started. I mean, Joey the Clown was added in because of Joseph Grimaldi who was like the celebrity of the day.
In my show, the devil’s got a bit of bling and I like him to be a little bit ‘street’ a little bit naughty.
Judy: There we go Mr Punch, little Asbo.
Gary Wilson: And also it’s all about topical jokes. I’ve seen people put bankers in the show and politicians. You’re always moving it on all the time.
Judy: You’re going to look after two little boys from Westminster. Make sure they play nicely together. It’s Little Dave and Little Nick.
Punch: Okey dokey. Come on Little Dave. Come on Little Nick. There’s good boys.
Clive Chandler: It’s essentially anti-establishment. Any country with political problems, street stuff disappears overnight. So for me it’s a barometer of a very healthy, English, eccentric society.
Martin Reeve: Because it’s 350 years now it’s perhaps a good time to take stock of what’s going on with the show. So it’s about how you see its future.
Clive Chandler: People had a slight sort of wobble at the end of the last century about whether it should survive and in what form. But then they think “yeah, it’s really part of… it’s a grand expression of public freedom.
Gary Wilson: I think he’s such a strong character he’ll keep going. I mean he’s always followed the crowds. Although you don’t see Punch and Judy as much on the beach these days, he’s gone to the shopping centres, the festivals, the theme parks, the schools and children’s parties as well.
Clive Chandler: We can’t dictate the future but hopefully what we’ve done today, somebody will look at it and say yeah, “that’s the thing for me” and they’ll be doing it in 5,10,15, 20 years time.
And when we’re all dead and buried, somebody will dig this up and say “look what they were doing!”
content on Punch and Judy, including the accompanying videos, has been
supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund via the Big Grin project