Celebrating the history and entertainment of Punch and Judy
Summer season fun on Swanage beach
Inside the booth
Going, going, gone!
6 Punch with the press
10 A Rose by any other name
12 Beside the seaside
14 Farewell Len
To submit contributions for the next issue email firstname.lastname@example.org Many thanks to the Punch and Judy Club for their support. punchandjudyclub.com
Copyright 2018, all rights reserved. Reproduction in part or whole is forbidden without express permission of the publishers. All expressions and opinions demonstrated within the publication, are those of the Editors and contributors.
Showman Edward Francis Candler, 1873 - 1908, and his father, noted pipe player and showman, Edward Candler (1847 - 1922). ÂŠ Geoff Felix Archives
Welcome to the first edition of Slapstick. Produced by the team behind the Punch and Judy Page, Facebook’s number one source for all things Punch related, in collaboration with members of The Punch and Judy Club, this new journal gives writers a chance to expand on stories and air views that can be lost in the ephemeral world of social media. As editors we aim to include a variety of news, articles on Punch past and present, rare items from private archives, letters, opinion pieces, and practical tips and hints from Punch and Judy performers and enthusiasts from across the globe. 2018 has been a busy year for Punch, though one of ups and downs, as we will explore later. His birthday was celebrated in style at the Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival, he appeared in shows and an exhibition at the home of British puppetry in Little Angel By The Sea at their Islington Studios, and he no doubt entertained thousands of spectators throughout the summer months at beaches and barbeques, fetes and festivals. However it wasn’t all as rosy as Punch’s cheeks, and in the summer that the historic Codman booth at Llandudno was significantly damaged by mother nature, our eponymous folk hero also came under fire from the media, and some professors were called to ‘stick up’ for their red nosed friend, some more successfully than others. We hope you enjoy reading this first edition of Slapstick and would welcome any correspondence, or contributions.
James Arnott & Daniel Hanton
Photo - David Wilde
I first met John M Blundall when he invited me to perform at one of his Punch and Judy Cavalcades at Canon Hill Puppet Theatre, Birmingham when I was a young teenager. I travelled up with Percy Press Jnr and remember being shown Johnâ€™s wonderful exhibit of international puppets and being particularly impressed by his collection of Punch puppets, books and ephemera. As I am sure you all know after the sad closure of MAC, and some difficult years at the Scottish Mask and Puppet Centre, John and his magnificent collection settled in Glasgow and set up camp at The Mitchell Library. At first he was given a relatively small room, and then later he moved to the front of the library to a magnificent space with his thousands of books stretch-
ing up to the ceiling, peppered with colourful puppet creations from his own hand, and from the work benches of revered craftsmen from across the world. He dubbed this The World Through Wooden Eyes. Sadly John passed away in 2014, and the future of this collection seemed uncertain. In 2016 I was contacted by Scottish auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull and asked, along with Ge-
off. Felix, to help value some of the pieces, as we have done for other museums and auctioneers. Interestingly the items we were shown mainly focussed on Johnâ€™s international collection and his work for television. Mr Punch and his friends seemed to have disappeared. I wondered if they had been bequeathed by John as a gift to others.
“WHILST SOME MAJOR INSTITUTIONS, SUCH AS THE V&A HAD SENT REPRESENTATIVES TO BID IN PERSON, IT WAS CLEAR THAT THERE WERE SOME VERY BIG HITTERS WITH DEEP POCKETS BIDDING ONLINE.”
My friend and colleague James Arnott had purchased John’s extensive library of books and many associated papers, through a private treaty sale with Lyon & Turnbull, and we travelled to the Mitchell Library together for one last time in December 2017 to pack away these wonderful books. It was great to see so many important Punch and Judy books together and going to a good home. The night before we caught the famous King’s Glasgow pantomime, a tradition John would certainly have approved of. An auction of part of John’s extensive puppet collection was announced for February 2018 and collectors from across the world were eager to see the catalogue. It was a high quality publication with excellent photos, and there, finally, were the gems from John’s Punch and Judy collection: two wonderful Victorian Mr Punch puppets, a collection of rare glass slides showing Jesson’s show in great detail, and an enormous canvas proscenium, believed to be from the Codman show. I knew these would be popular lots, and the valuations (not by Geoff or myself) seemed very reasonable. I was incredibly fortunate to have a benefactor who was keen to see the Punch collection stay as a whole, and who was determined that it should join my own extensive collection, but even with this I knew that bidding would be fierce. I travelled to Edinburgh for the auction, alongside other collectors and Punch performers Geoff. Felix, Chris Drewitt and James Arnott, and attended the viewing the day before at Lyon & Turnbull’s stunning New Town venue, dubbed ‘the most beautiful saleroom in Britain’. They had done an excellent job of curating the exhibition and it was quite moving to see so many magnificent puppets together for one last time. That night we had an excellent meal,
alongside ventriloquial collector Gregor Laing, who braved the snow and drove over from Stirling to show us some very rare Len Insull creations, and alongside these masterful puppets we ate well, in great company and toasted the much missed JMB. We woke to find a winter wonderland and Edinburgh hidden under a good few inches of snow, so after a warming Scottish breakfast (all hail the potato scone) we gingerly made our way across town and down the treacherously steep hill to the auction house. There we met up with Punch collector and performer Martin Scott Price, Michael Dixon of the BPMTG and Michael and Maria Start of the House of Automata. Bidding was quick and competitive and the early lots of Victorian marionettes and trick scenery sold for way above their estimates. Whilst some major institutions, such as the V&A had sent representatives to bid in person, it was clear that there were some very big hitters with deep pockets bidding online. Punch is always popular at auction, and the Victorian street Punch figures were great and rare examples, so were always going to fetch high prices. I was fortunate to be in a position to be able to win both, keeping them together. Comparatively the ‘Codman’ proscenium (although we have since discovered it was created for a different, earlier Punch performer) was a bargain, especially when measured against other prosceniums that have sold in the last few years. The glass slides had escaped me at an earlier BPMTG auction, being snapped up by John himself, so I was keen to acquire these rare images, and have since enjoyed scanning them and adding the prints to my own collection. These are rare and highly detailed images of one of the most important Punch and Judy performers. Other
notable Punch pieces at the auction included a spectacular Victorian marionette of Punchinello, with a later head carved by Blundall, which was bought by James Arnott, and has recently been on display at the Little Angel Theatre; a group of ‘Punch and his Cousins’ that was acquired by two private collectors, one of whom had costumed them originally for John; a collection of 1000 postcards, which has now been added to the Geoff Felix archive; and a set of Supreme Magic puppets that were bought by a dealer, and sadly split up for sale on eBay. There had been some ill feeling from certain quarters about the auction ahead of the day, but it was clear that very few institutions could have housed John’s whole collection, indeed the Mitchell Library made it clear that they did not want the majority of the pieces. I thought it was best to take the view that John had acquired many of the pieces individually, either via public sales, hunting through antiquarian book stores, or as gifts from friends. And whilst it was sad that The World Through Wooden Eyes couldn’t have stayed as a whole, without sales like this John himself wouldn’t have acquired such a collection in the first place. What was most encouraging was seeing the top prices that John’s own creations made, far higher than his creations sold at the Canon Hill auction a few years earlier. I hope John would have appreciated the admiration puppeteers, collectors and museums around the world have shown for his work through this important sale, and that it sets a standard for how similar important collections should be dealt with in the future. David Wilde londonpunch.co.uk
Johnâ€™s collection on display at Lyon & Turnballâ€™s Edinburgh sale room.
Photos James Arnott
Photo - Daniel Hanton
Noted Punch and Judy Professor, ‘supreme’ entertainer of children, and master puppet maker Bryan Clarke turns 80 next May, and he will be celebrating this at the 44th Annual Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival. His friends from across the country will be wishing Bryan the very happiest of birthdays on the steps of St Paul’s Church at 10am prompt, and would love you to join them. There will be cake, candles and crocodiles and if we’re lucky Bryan may even tell us a joke! Most
importantly there will be an official photo to mark the occasion, with Bryan surrounded by as many of his Mr Punch puppets, and their equally colourful owners, as we can possibly muster. If you are the proud owner of a Clarke Mr Punch figure then you should both join in the photo fun at 10am on Sunday 12th May 2019.We hope to see you there.
Painting by Jose L. De Juan
For me, puppetry is like a language and it follows that the puppeteer who is accurate in movement is like a speaker with clear diction and a puppeteer with lots of business in his show is like a speaker with lots of interesting things to say. Do not bore your audience with puppets talking all the time. Gerry Anderson’s puppets talked a lot, but they were well manipulated and he had explosions. It can be done, but it takes a puppeteer or rare skill to do a lot of talking and not bore the audience. Puppets do things. They don’t talk about it, well at least in Punch and Judy. One of the secrets of Punch’s success is that the swizzle limits what he has to say and forces him into action. This doesn’t mean that you compensate by making the other puppets talk the audience to sleep. I repeat, a load of puppets just talking and nodding their heads is Death. Puppetry comes from acting and nearly all drama comes from conflict, be it of ideas or the more basic kind. Two people having a fight or an argument in the street will attract attention. The inherent danger is fascinating: the audience wants to see what happens. The Punch and Judy show is full of drama and glove puppets, one on each hand, fight so well. Here are some simple rules of puppetry which I hope will help you.
has just happened or the puppet will look at the audience when addressing it. Just try having a real conversation with someone while looking at their ear or above their head. It’s very disconcerting. So, the more accurate you are with eye-line, the more effective you will be. Checking, and rechecking eye-line is also crucial in photographing puppets.
the boxing routine, for example, the two pugilists tap ‘shave and a haircut, two bits’ style with their heads on the playboard. In the old show there seems to be an element of ritual with old rhythms going back in time:
Beadle – I am here to lock you up. Punch – I am here to knock you down. Beadle – There is a good one. Punch – There is a better one. Generally the puppet that is talking is Beadle – There’s a whopper. the one that moves. If it doesn’t move, Punch – There’s a topper! then it must be a puppet listening or acting as a statue or practicing ventrilo- This particular dialogue is often accomquism. I would expect the other pup- panied by the figures towering over pets to look at the speaker and maybe each other in turn, then with them hitreact. Most glove puppets nod their ting each other. The figure that is hit heads to the intonation of the words. amplifies this by flying backward and They don’t have moving mouths, and hitting the proscenium with the back shouldn’t move their heads with every of the head. In Italy I saw slapsticks atword or syllable. But you can do more tached to each side of the proscenium than this. You can slap the playboard to amplify the sound when the head for emphasis. You can advance on hit it. the other puppet, deliver the killer line, then walk away triumphant, then You can vary the rhythm of the show. pause, then turn to see what the reac- For instance, when Punch encounters tion is. You can point with a hand and the crocodile at first he does not see it; make other specific gestures. Avoid the audience do and warn him loudly. just having the puppets standing there He could back slowly towards it and and wiggling. A member of a large au- feel along the snout then slowly turn, dience, standing at the back, won’t see there is a beat, he sees it, registers this. Actually, I doubt that you will have what it is and squeals. an audience. But assuming you have, use all the space within the prosceni- The show can change pace with a fast um and make clear, accurate moves. bit of action, chasing around the booth Remember also, the bigger the audi- or in a circle if it’s hands above head, ence, the broader the moves. or moments of stillness. You can vary the rhythms of different puppet voices. Be aware of rhythm. This is especially If all you characters speak and move in important when puppets dance, and a the same way, hitting the same vocal well rehearsed routine with music will notes all the time, the audience can get often get applause. You have to know irritated. the music though. They can bow, advance forward and back, cross each Puppetry is acting, so make them act. other, tap hands ‘patta-cake’ style, tap the playboard, bang their heads to- Extract from ‘Punch and Judy - Inside gether and many things more, all in the Booth’ by Geoff. Felix time to the music.
Know where the puppet is looking. This is the first rule of puppetry. Puppeteers call this ‘focus’, meaning getting the eye-line correct. In television puppetry this is so crucial that a television monitor is required so that the puppeteer can see the eye-line from the point of view of the camera. With a live audience, and looking at the puppet from below, or behind, this is more difficult. Generally, the puppet that is not talking looks at the one that is. Sometimes the puppet will look at Also, during fighting, which should be the audience as a reaction to what choreographed, rhythm is essential. In
Illustration by Austin Phillips
Mr Punch is a born survivor, and he needs to be, given all he has to put up with: a demanding wife, the law on his tail, a free range crocodile, not to mention Old Nick appearing in a puff of flames and the constant danger of being grabbed by the ghosties and ghoulies that have plagued him since pantomime. Those of course can be dealt with by a swift slapstick blow to their little wooden heads, and Punch can have a lie down before his next show. However there are greater threats to Punch, and these are often much larger, though still with heads stuffed with sawdust. Could the real villain of the Punch and Judy show be…the journalist? Every year we see writers pedalling the same old story: “That’s not the way to do it”, “Shows cancelled for glorifying domestic violence”, “Punch and Judy Man Hits Out at Political Correctness”. These stories crop up every year during the silly season for a number of reasons: they fill pages, they provide a good colourful spread of photos, and they provoke debate, fuelling the keyboard warriors to populate the online comments pages (which always helps advertising revenue). But are the writers themselves to blame? Why do they create these pieces in the first place? Most often the driving force behind these stories are the Punch performers themselves. How else are these stories created? Punch performers have gone to the press for a sympathetic ear countless times over the years, but they need to be careful that their words aren’t twisted for the sake of a good story. National papers have always picked up articles from the locals, but the days of a news story disappearing into fish and chip wrappers are long gone. Once an article is online it is there for good! It is now very easy for an off the cuff comment to a friendly local writer about losing a
booking to blow up into a national story about Punch being banned. It’s also worth remembering that most people don’t read every story in a newspaper, or on a news site, they often just scan the headlines. Whilst the content of the story may clearly state that Punch is thriving they will remember the more provocative headline. A few months down the line when they come to book entertainment for their next event Punch could well be off the list because all they can remember is that the show is linked with controversy. A local story, created to drum up interest in the show at one end of the country can be detrimental to another performer’s business hundreds of miles away.
“Could the real villain of the Punch and Judy show be… the journalist?”
to come and see him perform so they can write accurately. This is an excellent idea and one we could all take up. A Punch show should be a thing of joy, and entertaining for all ages. Ken Dodd said that he worked on “Seven titters per minute” aiming to find something funny to say or do every eight seconds or so. This would be a wonderful aim for a Punch show. Aim to make the show the best it can possibly be, really think about how to create humour both visually and verbally. If every time Punch bops someone on the head it draws a belly laugh then the show won’t need defending from bored journalists. Slapstick humour does not promote violence in anyway when done skilfully and well, but just using a slapstick to hit a puppet is not enough. Look at the nimble way Percy Press Snr would spin the puppets around his stick before laying them out for a dexterous counting routine, or how Martin Bridle’s Punch beats Judy on the bottom. We must be just as witty and skilful in how we handle our encounters with those who would tarnish Punch’s reputation. His future really is in our hands.
Whilst there was a lot of negative press this summer, there were some excellent examples of how to handle the media, with some great interviews and positive press. Particular thanks to John Styles and David Wilde for giving up their time to defend Punch so skilfully on Channel 5 James Arnott and BBC respectively. Occasionally I am drawn to think that I am lucky to have friends and colleagues who perform Punch to a high standard, and inspire me to improve my own work. A good Punch show is full of slapstick fun. Sadly though there are a number of performers who simply don’t get it, and include heavy handed material that perhaps isn’t suitable for today. Punch is only as good as the performer lending him a hand, something that a lot of journalists and bookers don’t realise, they don’t differentiate in a way they would with comedians. One noted Prof has decided to only speak to journalists who have taken the time
y earliest memory of seeing a Roselia proscenium is at the Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival in 1993. Bryan Clarke had done an excellent job reproducing one of his designs, standing tall at the Piazza end of the garden, with a smaller one which I think was David Wilde’s booth beside that. My interest in these magnificent creations was really piqued whilst going through Geoff Felix’s archive – he has quite a lot of information on Thomas Rose and many rare photographs of his work. Talking to David and Geoff about Rose and his life, I learnt that he lived in Suffolk, performing the Punch show on beaches along the east coast, most notably at Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, but he had also worked as a theatrical scenery painter in London. He not only painted the prosceniums, show equipment, handcarts (to travel the show), puppet boxes and paraphernalia, but he also carved and painted his own puppets. He was a talented craftsman and later adapt his skills to include heraldic artistry. He seemed to favour the Royal coat of arms at the top of the proscenium with Roman columns either side. His trademark appears to be a preference for flowers, in particular roses, his namesake. He even decorated his Bungay house with paintings of them. Roselia’s style of proscenium has been widely copied, and the inclusion of heraldry has become a part of the tradition. Many performers claim a link to royalty, such as Mayhew’s Punchman, but few can be proven. Roselia however was presented to the King and Queen, whose likenesses he captured in oils so well, after a performance for the Royal household at Sandringham. Having learnt about Roselia I was very
interested to see some of his artwork in the flesh. Luckily David has some of Rose’s puppets which I was able to look at, but I really wanted to see the prosceniums. Rose’s grandest proscenium had been on display at the Polka Theatre, Wimbledon, for many years along with his Punch and Judy, but was sold at auction and is currently in an unknown location in Japan. Percy Press Senior had owned two originals which Bryan had copied, but these had since been sold on numerous times. The curved top, wide proscenium featuring King George VI and Queen Elizabeth was eventually sent to Canada, and the smaller one, which Press used in the 1968 film Oliver!, was sold to the Museum of London and is now in storage. It had been on display for some time when the Punch and Judy puppets displayed inside it, again made by Roselia, were stolen. I was beginning to think my luck was out and I would never see one of his original works, when David contacted me regarding a connection he had made with the family of Leslie Press (Percy Senior’s son) who said they had magic props, books, puppets and an old proscenium for sale. They sent pictures over and David immediately realised it was a Roselia proscenium. A date was set to visit the family in order to view the items with the possibility of purchasing them, but unfortunately a show came in for the same date and David could not attend. He asked if I would go on his behalf to meet the family. After being invited in to a warm welcome and seeing Leslie’s collection I came away with what was the most fantastic Roselia proscenium and two ventriloquist dolls. Most of the magic props and books had already been sold before my visit, though I was later
to have one choice piece returned to me by chance. That evening I took the items straight round to David’s, where I was able to study the proscenium in great detail and go over it with a finetooth comb. The spectacular colours and shadowing used in his work to create something as magnificent as this proved he was a real master in his field. The proscenium was a true showpiece to take pride of place above the booth. David used it at the May Fayre in 2015 for the first time. After seeing this wonderful piece of art being used I considered the idea of building and painting one myself. Having a background in carpentry and coach-painting I thought this would be a great challenge to take on. I contacted Bryan to ask if I could measure and photograph the big Roselia proscenium that he had reproduced. He kindly agreed and so David and I took a trip to Lowestoft for a Punch and Judy weekend. Having taken the measurements and photographs I started the construction on my interpretation of Roselia’s proscenium in winter 2015. By May 2016 it was pride of place at the May Fayre and I was overjoyed with the results. David then asked me to make one for him as well, only slightly smaller. So during the course of winter 2016 I started construction and by May 2017 the second example of my work appeared on David’s booth in Covent Garden. I feel very fortunate that with the help of David, Bryan and Geoff I have been able to recreate these outstanding pieces of art which can be enjoyed by everyone who watches the show. Chris Drewitt
Photo - Daniel Hanton Photo - Chris Drewitt
Chris Drewitt in his first Roselia recreation at the Covent Garden May Fayre, 2016.
David Wilde busking in Covent Garden, August 2018.
Photo - Joe Burns
It’s the last day of my summer season. The 17th million person has shouted “That’s the way to do it” at me, it’s only 9:30am and I haven’t even had my breakfast. I have a feeling today’s shows are going to be quiet. The show is ready for the day; I’ve not managed to hit myself with the mallet I use to hit the windbreaks in or fallen off the ladder, so all in all it’s been a painless season, apart from the sore throat and aching arms, but that comes with the territory. I wander off into town in search of tea and toast, past the deckchair guys, past the tourist information centre. I stop to say hello and good morning to most people who work on the beach, and of course talk about the weather with anyone who will listen. I always have a big breakfast; it keeps me going through the day. I don’t find it comfortable at all to perform when I’m full, so the earlier the better. Once I get back to the beach, I use the spare time to make badges, keep social media updated, or nap in the sun. Today, I chose the latter. My bottler wakes me up; she mentions it’s quiet in town. As a wise person said, make hay while the sun shines. That’s what we must do. Some days it’s too hot for an audience, some days it’s too wet for an audience, and some days, like today, it’s just right. But quiet. Ten minutes before the show, I play music down to each ends of the beach. It’s important for everyone to hear the announcements for the show. Kids run to the show from the sea, from the beach huts, and from further down the beach, followed behind by the adults. I always prefer to have adults in the audience too, there are cheekier jokes I can use when there are adults watching
the show. It always makes the performance feel more off the cuff, and stops it getting stale. It may be the 20th time you’ve said the same thing this week, but the audience should think it’s the first time you’ve ever said it. When one of the characters speaks to an audience member, it’s always a genuine interaction; I tend not to put down people for engaging in different ways with the show, apart from stone throwers (the bane of the beach Punch man) or anyone being rude to Judy, she’s beautiful, no matter what you tell her! Each audience member has a different expectation of the show, I have to try and read that from them and present the show I think is best suited to the audience in front of me. No two shows are ever exactly the same. The final show of the summer is always bittersweet, on one hand I’m sad the season is ending, and on the other I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed. The audience is made up of new faces and old, some very good friends have come to see me off. For my reservations, today wasn’t as quiet as I thought. It can change on a dime, one minute the beach is rammed and the next it’s empty. And vice versa. Mike, the Mayor of Swanage walks past during the show, I always pick on him when I see him. He’s just had hand surgery, so his hand is in a cast. “Ladies and gentlemen, the Mayor of Swanage has joined us. Give him a hand. No. Please. Give him a hand, he needs one”. Joking aside, the Mayor and Swanage Town Council do need a mention, as does every audience that has supported the show. Without them there wouldn’t be a show in Swanage. Like most Punch professors, I saw my first show on
a beach; at that moment I knew I wanted to perform Punch. There are less full time beach shows still operating in the UK than there are fingers on my hand. If I can inspire any of the next generation of professors while performing on the beach my job is done. But as it’s my third season I won’t know for a few more if I have. By the time that comes I would love to see more shows operating full time on beaches around the country. Performing the show in such a regimented way has only helped improve my show. Performing a full beach season is the professor’s equivalent of a comedian or actor’s Edinburgh fringe. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s hard work, but would I have it any other way? Don’t be silly! Joe Burns facebook.com/swanagepunch
“Punch may very well be considered one of our London characters. So well known is Punch, that the sight of two men, one carrying the show and the other the drum and pipes, passing through the streets, is quite enough to draw after them a group of curious little folk, all on the tip-toe of excitement, wondering when and where the men will stop and pitch the show. Just a very little way down a by-turning in one of the principal streets, is a favourite spot for setting down the show. At such a spot there may often be seen a little crowd of children gathering almost before the show has been pitched, or the man has had time to get within the curtain. For, although he does not intend you shall know it, the showman is inside, hidden away from sight by the long green baize curtain that falls around. The little ones, watching the lively movements of the figures and hearing the curious talk, and of course seeing no other man than the one outside who is busy with his drum and pipes, innocently imagine that the figures are speaking, There are some preparations to be made by the showman; so, while they are going on, the man with the drum suspended from his shoulders and the row of pipes stuck just within the folds of his scarf, tries to swell the crowd by blowing a tune on the pipes, keeping up a rub-adub-dub accompaniment on the drum. There is not much music in the noise this musician is creating, but the well-known strains from the pipes soon draw the people around, anxiously awaiting the appearance of Punch, and curious to see his merry performances.
People of all sorts gather round. Little ones in the care of bigger brothers and sisters are lifted up in their arms, or on their shoulders, so that they may see Punch. Shoeless, hatless, and perhaps homeless boys and girls, who spend most of their time roaming the streets, squeeze in to have one piece of merriment, and laugh at the comical figures. The errand boy at sight of Punch’s funny face forgets his business, and, putting his basket down, settles himself comfortably to have a spell of enjoyment. Nor does any one seem too old to watch the show. The old lady with her market-basket on her arm is as well pleased as any juvenile, and even the busy man of business must stop a moment on the outskirts of the crowd and enjoy the mirth of this merry exhibition. Punch seems to have made his first appearance in England more than two hundred years ago; for we find that in 1666-7 an Italian puppet-player set up his booth at Charing Cross, and paid a small rental to the overseers of the parish of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields. If we look in their books under that date, we shall see four entries of various sums ‘received of Punchinello, ye Italian popet player, for his booth at Charing Cross.’ So that Master Punch is rather an old inhabitant of our midst, and we may look upon him as a rare relic of the rough fun of our forefathers.” Walks In And Around London by ‘Uncle Jonathan’, 1895, Charles H. Kelly, London.
Len with his fit up in the 1960s.
Len’s final show the day before he passed.
Len Belmont’s (Leonard Alfred Brown) final conversation with himself took place the day before he died. He had been entertaining at the birthday party of a young relative, with all his family present. Afterwards they all agreed that this was the way he would have wanted to sign off. The funeral in Beckenham on Tuesday 16th October marked the end of a 70 year career as magician, Punch performer and ventriloquist. Len’s passion for puppetry, Punch and magic was first ignited as a child when he sent out of his Hackney home to the country as an evacuee with his sister. These talents served him well when, in 1948, he undertook National Service, entertaining in every possible temporary theatre or hall. A return to London saw him working briefly in printing, but he couldn’t resist the lure of the stage, and quickly turned professional. He was an all-round entertainer, but his skills as a ventriloquist marked him out ahead of the field. His characters George, Charlie and Molly were in great demand, working in top hotels, cabarets and department stores. The GLC booked his Punch and Judy shows for
tours of the London parks during school holidays. Len made notable television appearances including The Avengers and most recently Convention Crashers, coaching Justin Lee Collins in ventriloquism. Len’s greatest ventriloquial skill was in distant voice. This is when the performer does not use a puppet, but gives the illusion that the voice is coming from another source such as a suitcase or a bottle. Part of the skill of the ventriloquist is to indicate where the sound is coming from. Together with good lip control the audience can be fooled. Len was a master at this, creating uncannily lifelike telephone calls and characters trapped in suitcases. Even on his last day, when he was in hospital he was entertaining the nurses with the sound of a voice coming from a sample bottle! To those that knew Len, this wouldn’t have surprised them. We were all wondering if a voice would appear from the coffin. Sadly this wasn’t to be. Geoff. Felix
4 3 4
ACROSS 1 Alex’s expanded. 3,5,4 2 Mr Punch pawns his stoat. 3 3 A distant voice. 3 4 Joey’s shameful song. 3,7 5 Wally’s London. 6 6 A gallant performance. 6 7 Roselia’s puppets restored here, delivered to your front door. 4 8 Wonky canvas. 4 9 For whom the bell tolls. 3 10 Fishing family. 6 11 Even Mr Punch needs a risk assessment. 4 12 Hand to (the horse’s) mouth. 6 DOWN 1 Wilkinson’s wheels. 3, 3, 11 2 Dealt with Punch. 5, 6 3 Not a bear; John’s secret sauce. 5 4 Other arts. 11 5 Monkey business. 3 6 The revered; sorry Joe, it wasn’t. 6 7 Mixing the Punch. 4 8 Punch’s girl won’t crack or shrink. 5 9 The lovely lions rioted. 6 10 Uncle Earache; up in under thirty seconds. 4 11 A hand in a Christmas Punch performance for the frog. 5, 8
Solutions on page 22
Guy Richardson, Great Yarmouth 1984 ACROSS 1 The Frame File – Alex’s expanded. 3,5,4 2 Pop – Mr Punch pawns his stoat. 3 3 Len – A distant voice. 3 4 Hot Codlins – Joey’s shameful song. 3,7 5 Pinner – Wally’s London. 6 6 Shadow – A gallant performance. 6 7 Avon – Roselia’s puppets restored here, delivered to your front door. 4 8 Tilt – Wonky canvas. 4 9 Tel – For whom the bell tolls. 3 10 Codman – Fishing family. 6 11 Myth – Even Mr Punch needs a risk assessment. 4 12 Bridle – Hand to (the horse’s) mouth. 6
DOWN 1 The Old Encumbrance – Wilkinson’s wheels. 3, 3, 11 2 Edwin Hooper – Dealt with Punch. 5, 6 3 Teddy – Not a bear; John’s secret sauce. 5 4 Alternative – Other arts. 11 5 Mop – Monkey business. 3 6 Jesson – The revered; sorry Joe, it wasn’t. 6 7 Stir – Mixing the Punch. 4 8 Polly –Punch’s girl won’t crack or shrink. 5 9 Daniel – The lovely lions rioted. 6 10 Eric – Uncle Earache; up in under thirty seconds. 4 11 Steve Whitmire – A hand in a Christmas Punch performance for the frog. 5, 8
© David Wilde Archives
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Welcome to the first edition of Slapstick. Produced by the team behind the Punch and Judy Page, Facebook’s number one source for all things...
Published on Nov 29, 2018
Welcome to the first edition of Slapstick. Produced by the team behind the Punch and Judy Page, Facebook’s number one source for all things...