Punch and Judy show suffers slings and arrows
NOW that Bill the Bard is all over the internet, we can unearth his most famous quotes in seconds, rather than ploughing through pages of The Complete Shakespeare or phoning a literary friend.
But there is nothing to compare with hearing the words spoken aloud, whether at Stratford-on-Avon, The Globe Theatre in London or at Pendley Manor, where we recently saw an outdoor performance of The Tempest.
Sitting in glorious sunshine, listening to the beautifully crafted words, I was reminded of how Shakespeare’s plays encompass everything that is good and bad about mankind. If we delve deeply enough we can find a quote to match any occasion. I thought of these lines from The Tempest: “You taught me language, and my profit on’t / Is, I know how to curse”, when I read about the Punch and Judy man, who has been suffering abuse from audiences in Weymouth.
It is ironic that a puppet show, which has been performed on seafronts in Britain for 350 years, and has been more recently criticised for its non-pc violence and domestic abuse, should be subject to insults and stone-throwing. Of course, Shakespeare’s audiences were not averse to hurling a few fruity phrases, if not the odd tomato, if they didn’t like a character, but this was part of the show – they were joining in, not sneering at it. These universal themes have been touched on in literature since people first started writing down stories that reflected real life.
Shakespeare’s character Kate in The Taming of the Shrew, like Punch’s brow-beaten wife Judy, is subjected to extreme misogyny and abuse, but as a teenager watching the former and as a child watching the latter, I was not disturbed by the aggression because the abusers were portrayed as pathetic characters.
The bombastic Petruchio, who goads Kate, and the ridiculous Mr Punch are a million miles away from characters that litter so called ‘violence porn’ which is now classed as entertainment. There’s nothing to laugh about there, no release from the tension and no way to help us deal with the awful things that men and women can do to each other.
I must report back to readers concerned about our daughter’s cat who was spotted back in Uxbridge where we had been looking after it. Thank goodness the moggie, sighted by neighbours, was a different Tom. Jangles was curled up happily at home, many miles away!