Judy re­turns with less Punch

The quin­tes­sen­tial British pup­pets are back with a mod­ern twist, writes

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TUESDAY EXTRA -

PUNCH and Judy is mak­ing a come­back but with­out the vi­o­lence or dropped baby. The tra­di­tional sea­side at­trac­tion has been re­vamped and set in con­tem­po­rary Bri­tain to mark its 350th an­niver­sary.

Comedian Ken Dodd, pa­tron of the Punch and Judy Fel­low­ship, crit­i­cised the rad­i­cally-al­tered show.

Pup­pets of mod­ern-day fig­ures such as UK’s Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Nick Clegg as Cleggy The Clown, TV mogul Si­mon Cow­ell, Lon­don mayor Boris John­son and Prince Harry fea­ture in the show, which takes ‘‘mod­ern sen­si­bil­i­ties into ac­count’’.

The new ver­sion, where the baby no longer gets dropped and Punch does not beat his wife, has been penned by John Phelps and Gary Law­son, whose cred­its in­clude episodes of Good­night Sweet­heart and Birds of a Feather. It fea­tures Punch as a track­suit-wear­ing ben­e­fits cheat and Judy as an as­pir­ing WAG. While the devil has gone, new hate fig­ures in­clude an EU sausage in­spec­tor and a loan shark.

UK TV chan­nel Gold asked the writ­ers to cre­ate the show af­ter a sur­vey of 2000 British par­ents found that 40 per cent said jokes about do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and baby cru­elty were a turn-off. Gold gen­eral man­ager Steve North says: ‘‘Punch and Judy are quintessen­tially British and a hugely im­por­tant part of our cul­ture. This project is all about pre­serv­ing that cul­ture and in­tro­duc­ing it to a new gen­er­a­tion.’’

He adds: ‘‘This is not a po­lit­i­cally cor­rect makeover. The new show is just as an­ar­chic and funny as it has al­ways been. It’s sim­ply a mod­ern-day ver­sion with mod­ern-day themes we can all re­late to.’’

But comedian Dodd says there is no need to al­ter the tra­di­tional show: ‘‘Chil­dren of all ages have enough com­mon sense and watch enough TV and films to know what’s fic­tion and what’s real life. It’s aw­ful to use con­tem­po­rary fig­ures. They’ve done it in the past for satir­i­cal shows and it isn’t funny. Punch and Judy are pup­pets and even chil­dren know they are pup­pets. Hu­mour is a beau­ti­ful gift. A sense of hu­mour is a won­der­ful thing. It shouldn’t be hi­jacked.’’

The first record of Punch per­form­ing in pub­lic in Eng­land ap­pears in Sa­muel Pepys’ di­ary in 1662, when he wrote about a show he had seen in Covent Gar­den. But Mr Punch’s ori­gins in Europe go back fur­ther to the char­ac­ter of Pulcinella.

Shaun Wil­liamson, who starred in Ex­tras and as Barry in EastEn­ders, will take the role of the bot­tler – tra­di­tion­ally, the money col­lec­tor – later this month in the Covent Gar­den pre­miere of Punch And Judy Rebooted, which will also be shown on Gold’s web­site be­fore it goes to Great Yar­mouth and Scar­bor­ough.

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