Jingle all the way
May Fayre Memories
Punch & Judy shows in France
May Fayre in pictures
A tribute to George Wall-man
14 16 18 20 22
Memories of Bob
Mr Punch back on Norfolk beach
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Copyright 2019, 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.
Professor Bolton, 1910. ÂŠ David Wilde Archives
Welcome to this second edition of Slapstick, a journal produced by the team behind Facebook’s Punch and Judy Page, celebrating Mr Punch’s past and present. And so far 2019 has been a year for celebrating. Britain’s most prolific puppet maker, and top Punch performer, Bryan Clarke celebrated his 80th birthday in style at this year’s Covent Garden May Fayre, making a special day even more memorable. The festival itself featured some superb performances, particular stand outs were Damien Weis’s teleporting and cross dressing Gnafron, and Richard Coombs’ undertakers, channeling Paddick and Williams. Thanks as ever to Maggie Pinhorn and Alternative Arts for organising such a wonderful day, and for letting Bryan’s birthday photo shoot bring a pause to the morning’s proceedings. It is great to know that old red nose is back on the sands at Weymouth and Swanage as this issue comes to press, as well as continuing an historic season on the promenade at Llandudno. This summer sees Punch return to the sands at the old Children’s Corner at Gorleston after a long absence. We wish all of the performers well in their endeavours. However 2019 has sadly seen the loss of two iconic Punch-men, Harry Parrott and Bob Wade. Both are greatly missed and their lives are celebrated by their friends in this issue. Unfortunately Punch continues to have a hard time from some narrow minded bookers after his exploits on tv and in the papers last summer. Here’s hoping some more positive publicity is generated this season. Many thanks to those readers who got in touch after the first issue of Slapstick. With over 1000 downloads on issu it was great to hear your feedback. It was lovely to meet so many readers from the wider world of entertainment and variety at the Blackpool Magic Convention. We hope you all enjoy this issue, and welcome your thoughts, correspondence, photographs and articles.
Bryan Clarke talks about his life with Punch 6
Picture the scene. A boy with my mother in Stanwell Middlesex. A fete. And we walked by, and there was this box with the little characters in it making a noise, and people shouting at them, nd I said to my mother, “What’s that? How do they all work? What’s that, mum?” And she said, “Come away, you won’t be interested in that.” Bad move, because that made me even more interested to find out about it. Drop a few years, 1947, I go to Lowestoft, and the beach has opened up again, and on the beach at Lowestoft there is Professor Greeny, Punch and Judy man, in a wooden booth, Eric Chamberlain, the conjurer and the ventriloquist, outside doing the show. Magic and Punch and Judy. Greeny used Wal Kent puppets, he didn’t swazzle but he had a remarkable Punch voice, amplified by an old RAF throat mic. I sat in the audience and I was absolutely spellbound. By the end of the week I’d plucked up the courage to go up to Professor Greeny and say, “I just love all this. Please, Mr Greeny, can you tell me how it’s all done?” And he said, “Are you really interested?” And I went, “Yes I am.” I was only eight.
was quite a good show. The only bit I can really remember of the show was Punch was singing, “I do like to be beside the seaside,” and the policeman came up complain and Punch would say, “I don’t care for a policeman. I don’t care for a policeman.” And the policeman used to say, “Don’t you? Don’t you? Don’t you?” And then he’d hit him, whack, and bob about the playboard. That was my real introduction to Punch and Judy. I loved it. And still do now. I lived in London, but my aunt lived in Lowestoft. Every year my mum would say, “Where do you want to go for holiday?”, I’d always say Lowestoft. My parents would come too, after my dad came out of the war. We went every summer, and I always wanted to see Punch. One year Eric Chamberlain had a row with Professor Greeny, and went off to a little hut on Lowestoft Pier with his wife Madam Olivia, whose name was Olive. And he did a show which was conjuring, magic and marionettes.
Professor Greeny now became the conjurer on the little stage in front of the booth, and Franklin Spence went inside the booth with his puppets. He said, “Come and have a look.” He really was a great performer, He took me in his booth and it was equal to Percy Press. A wonderful like a new world. It was a big booth, show. made of corrugated iron. During the war, they used corrugated iron Spence made all his puppets out of for the air raid shelters, so after papier mache. Pretty crudely, but the war they built this thing. There then from a distance the crudewas a shutter under the playboard, ness disappeared. Franklin Spence you could open it up and perform performed there right through to marionettes. Greeny had a pole and 1962. I was working by that point, chair balancer, a disjointing skeleton, a sales rep out on the road, and I a grand turk, and his son, who was went down there to watch his show blind actually played the piano accor- towards the end of the summer. dion to the puppets, and that would You could tell he wasn’t a well man, coughing his head off. He smoked bring the audience in. a pipe, it was hardly ever out of his Now all the kids would come, and mouth. Such a lovely old man, and I then Punch and Judy would go on. It felt so sorry for him. He confided in
me that he felt so bad that he didn’t think he was going to make it till the end of the season. He couldn’t talk for coughing. “I don’t think I’m going to get through this year. I’ve got one week to go, and if I don’t do it the council will sack me.” I said, “I tell you what I’ll do, I’ll take a week off work and I’ll do the rest of the week for you. They won’t know any different. I could do your show blindfolded”. So I helped him out for a week and did my first shows on the sands. I had been doing the show for some time by then. I started young, after being inspired by Greeny and Spence. Aged ten I asked my father for a set of puppets for Christmas. I had seen professional puppets for sale in Gamages, Holborn. We lived in Forest Gate, South London, but I got on my bike, with the money from my father and cycled into town. I bought Punch, Judy, the Policeman, Joey the Clown, the Baby, and the Crocodile. All for the tidy sum of £4.50. Which sounds like a bargain, but the average working man’s weekly wage was only £8 then. I was laden up with parcels, as I’d bought some wood working tools that day too, and decided to stop off at Studio One, the Walt Disney cinema on Oxford Street. It’s a clothes shop now, but was glorious back then. I went in there, and the cinema manager came up and said, “God, you’re packed up young man, aren’t you?” He was right, I had loads of packages. He said, “I’ll look after your parcels for you, you’ll be alright with me. What’s your dad’s telephone number?” So I told him. So he said, “You can go in there, go on, you haven’t got to pay. It’s Pinocchio.” Which was the perfect film for me.
Well I had a booth, and I had my puppets, but I wanted to do the show properly. So I wrote to Mr Spence and said, “I’m learning to do the Punch show now, can I have a call?” We didn’t call it a swazzle, we called it a call. And then he wrote back to my father asking permission, because I was so young. Dad being in the jewellery trade sent him a sheet of silver, and Franklin Spence sent me two swazzles he’d made. I put the first one in and did it straight away. There was no hesitation, it was Well my father did make up for it. as simple as that. They weren’t always the best of parents, but they could see I loved I quickly picked up the skills needed Punch. My father would have made to do the show, the energy of youth a terrific entertainer if he’d wanted is a brilliant thing. It is much harder to to. He had so much charisma. That learn the show as an adult, you don’t Christmas he asked a friend of his have the patience. I wanted to meet to make me a puppet booth to per- more puppeteers, so I joined the form in. It had some really unusual British Puppet and Model Theatre blue canvas round, because not long Guild. What an age to be there, all of after the war so many fabrics were the top puppeteers were members. still in short supply. It was there that I first met the best
of the best, Percy Press. Most of the old timers were gobsmacked, here was a kid of 12 doing the full show, with the swazzle. Immediately they used me as their advertising, at exhibitions, at meetings, in the papers. I had energy, and made it seem a lot less like a stuffy old organisation. Out of all that publicity came a phone call to my father, from Sir Huw Wheldon at the BBC. At that time he was as a publicity man, but he ended up as their Managing Director. He said, “I’m doing a programme called ‘All Your Own’, where it’s kids going on and doing their little spot. Do you want to go on it?” I couldn’t believe my luck. I went along to Lime Grove Studios with another four kids. I performed some of the Punch and Judy show, and it just happened that there was a journalist from the Daily Mirror there that day, and he wrote an article about me.
Photo - Ron Bagley
So I’m sitting in the cinema and I thought how kind he’d been. I came out, and he said, “Right, your dad is going to pick you up at nine o’ clock. You’ll be back here.” He said, “Here’s your tickets.” I said, “What are they for?” Can you believe it, he’d gone round and got me some tickets for the Palladium pantomime. Because I told him my dad had given me the money to buy my own presents, he thought that was pretty lousy for Christmas!
Professor Jingles and Mr Punch meet a young fan.
‘From the age of 13 to 17 I’d often get called up for television shows.’ Six months later they put a programme on television called Whirligig, and they were looking for a boy to help the magician, Geoffrey Robinson, to bring the tricks on It had a great line up, Mr Turnip with the puppeteer Joy Laurey, Humphrey Lestocq, John Le Mesurier, Francis Coudrill doing ventriloquism with Hank the Cowboy. I was a regular on that show, and from that came so many other shows, like Timothy Telescope with Cliff Michelmore. From the age of 13 to 17 I’d often get called up for television shows. It had its problems, because I was a fiery little sod. I don’t think I was the most likeable little boy on the block, I was always larking around. My parents were always going up to school, and I was always the one causing trouble. The television appearances hadn’t helped me, I got big headed. In the East End of London these kids would say “Oh, you’re the television boy,” and come and ruffle all my black wavy hair, and of course I wouldn’t take it and get into fights. In the end I decided that television wasn’t worth the hassle, and whilst I still loved puppets other things started to catch my eye, working in a strip club in Soho, and singing with dance bands for Mecca seemed much more appealing. I only stopped because I was called up for National Service. I joined the RAF, doing odd shows here and there when I could, as well as singing and running camp dances. That’s how I met my wife, Dorothy. Punch really took a back seat when I came out of the services. I started work for British Foods, initially as a rep, and then was quickly promoted
to trouble shooter. That was a hard job, forever on the road, always travelling, sorting out other people’s problems seven days a week. It was so stressful that taking the odd afternoon off here and there to do a Punch and Judy show became a real escape. It was such a break from work that I fell in love with the show all over again. I was asked to perform a segment of the show for a programme called Man Alive with Jack Peasley in 1975, and had to pretend to be the regular Punch and Judy Man on Margate Beach. It really gave me the bug. It also coincided with a manically busy time at work. I needed a break, so went away with the family for a week by the sea at Herne Bay. Returning to work on the Monday morning my secretary told me I was needed in court at 9am as the result of a race relations problem. That was the final straw. I drove home to Dorothy, back to our very comfortable company flat, in my company car, and told her I wanted to go back to where it all started, back to Lowestoft, in search of a more fulfilling life. So I walked out of my firm, and headed to the coast. Unfortunately I found that Horaldo was working the Lowestoft pitch, but the town clerk offered me Gorleston beach, for £100 for the season. It was a great summer that first year, but I knew the winter would be much tougher. I worked holiday camps in the evenings, and at night got a job at a local plastics factory as quality control manager. I was working even harder than I was at British Foods, but my life was so much more enjoyable. I kept this routine up when Horaldo retired from Lowestoft, taking over
his pitch too, working shows on both beaches, driving the eight miles from one to the other in the afternoon, and working as a factory foreman for the night shift. I got away with it because my big beach booth was big enough for a bed so I could sleep during the day. As time went on I took over more and more of Lowestoft beach. Whenever a concession came up for tender we got it: trampolines, weighing scales, deckchairs, even a bucket and spade shop. You needed as many strings to your bow down there as possible. My whole family would work down there, close up at 6pm, I’d change and go down to entertain at a holiday camp, and Dorothy and the kids would go home and count up the money. Dorothy was the best bottler out there. It was hard work, but we made it work, we were all grafters, my children still are. By 1997 the resort had changed. The tides had shifted so the actual size of the beach was reduced. I was in my late 50s, and getting there every morning at 6am to set up the trampolines, there were 12 of them, with 70 springs on each. It was an exhausting start to the day, I always felt like I’d earned my breakfast afterwards. The numbers on the beach were dropping, and the deckchairs were starting to fall apart so we packed them in. Then, in 1997, the council put Thurston’s Fun Fair on the patch of grass opposite the Punch and Judy show. The noise from them was terrible, and of course all the children wanted to spend their money on rides, and try to watch the show for free. We decided to turn the booth around, so we were facing the sea rather than the esplanade. It meant
Friends and colleagues of Bryan Clarke joined him on the steps of St. Paulâ€™s Church, Covent Garden to over the years. From L to R, Teresa Verney-Brookes, Jamie Riding, Eef Straub, Paul Goddard, Geoff Felix Arnott, Damien Weis, Richard Coombs, Bryan Clarke, Joe Burns, Ian Thom, Alex Hennessey, David Wi
Photo - Kevin Allen
mark this milestone birthday. Also surrounded by some of the many Mr Punch puppets he has created x, Natt Barry, Dave Leggett, Josh Neville, John Harvey, Lee Roberts, Daniel Hanton, Paul Wheeler, James ilde, Paul Jackson, Gary Wilson, Max Fulham, Chris Somerville, Professor Diamond and Chris Drewitt.
that people had to come down onto the beach and into our enclosure to watch the show. The locals hated it, even writing to the local papers and to the council, asking ““Is the Punch and Judy man really that hard up?”. Of course they were the ones who never wanted to pay their 50p to watch, and didn’t realise the council were charging me £6000 rent per season. As a seaside town Lowestoft was dying, the crowds would head back to their caravans at 3 o’clock instead of staying on the beach. 1999 was my last summer there; Geoff Felix came down and did a week of shows with us, he couldn’t believe how bad things were down there. The council eventually offered me the pitch for free, but it was too late. I had done my time there and was ready to move on. There’s no beach there anymore, it’s all gone, there’s just rocks. Moving away from the beach was sad, but not a worry for me. If an-
Photo - Geoff Felix Archive
Photo - Bryan Clarke Collection
Professor Greeny and Bryan on Lowestoft beach, 1947.
Bryan’s booth on Lowestoft beach in the early 80s.
ything it was a relief, and meant I could devote more time to my private bookings for shows, and of course the puppet making side of my business. Whilst I had bought my first set of figures from Gamages, I had always enjoyed making puppets as a child, and many of the Puppet Guild members encouraged me with this. The great Waldo Lanchester actually invited me to stay with him and Muriel one summer to teach me carving. That really was a great experience. My early puppets were all papier mache, inspired by Franklin Spence. Working in paper I found I could make large puppets that could be seen from a great distance, whilst keeping the weight down unlike some of those huge wooden puppets I’ve seen over the years. I mostly just made puppets for myself, or for those Punch performers who were close friends. In the late 1970s the news reached Edwin Hooper, found-
er of the Supreme Magic Company, that I was making puppets and that they were pretty good, probably better than a lot of the others out there at the time. He was shown a set of my wooden figures by a magician around the same time his previous puppet maker had retired. Out of the blue I had a phone call from Edwin Hooper one evening, bearing in mind I’d never met him. “Hallo Bryan. I understand you’re the man I need to speak to. Fancy making me some puppets?”. I was thinking he would just need a set, but no, he wanted dozens of them. Edwin was a master of marketing and could sell ice to an eskimo. He certainly knew how to sell my puppets, and they went all around the world. He made much more money than I did out of them, but it guaranteed me a good wage. Every week through the winter we made him at least six puppets. We jigged up, making them in batches. If I was to make six Judy
‘In the late 1970s the news reached Edwin Hooper, founder of the Supreme Magic Company, that I was making puppets and that they were pretty good...’ six Judy puppets in one go, I would do all the stages at the same time: mark out six blocks of wood, then shape them all, then set the noses and chins in, properly of course, jointed, pegged and glued, then more carving, undercoating, and painting. During this Dorothy would be making six Judy costumes. This was much more time and cost effective, but the puppets were still all individual. My puppets made in the Supreme era definitely had a certain look, with the hands and the gloss paint, but none of them were the same. The painting and carving depended on my mood and what had inspired me, and the costumes varied with the availability of fabrics and trimmings. By the late 80s Edwin was getting ill, and whilst the business was thriving he clearly wanted a break. We got on incredibly well, he was a wonderful man, we even talked about me coming into partnership with him and moving to Bideford to run the company for him, but that wasn’t to be. My family had to come first. When the company eventually folded it was very sad, but I was glad of a break from making so many puppets. They had hundreds of figures from me over the years. I was much better known as a maker by that time, thanks to Edwin and of course thanks to the Covent Garden May Fayre, which I attend every year. I would have a packed stall next to my booth, and pretty much sell out every year, and of course I could take individual commissions from performers for sets of puppets. As my exclusive deal with Supreme was over I could supply other dealers such as Davenports Magic, and Pollocks Toy Shop, Covent Garden. I’ve made more Punch and Judy pup-
pets than any other maker past and present, and I’m still going. They’re in shows, collections and museums the world over, as well as featuring on a set of Royal Mail stamps; I’m very proud. I’ve performed the show at every possible event, to audiences of all ages and backgrounds, but I think my finest moment as a performer was in Covent Garden. It was at the old October Festival, in the market itself. I’d taken a really magnificent set of figures with me to sell that day, and one chap bought the whole lot, so I had a pocket full of cash, which was a bad time to catch up with John Alexander. He convinced me to join him for a Guinness in The Punch and Judy Pub. And then a second Guinness. And then a third. I’ve never been a big drinker, but that afternoon John won me over: “Have another one, go on. We’ll go back in a minute.” I kept protesting that I had a show to do, but he wouldn’t hear any of that, we were both having too much fun. Well three o’clock came around and we headed back to the booths, there was a huge crowd gathered but no shows taking place. I asked what had happened, and was told “They’re all waiting for you. They want to see the boxing match. Jim wants to see the boxing match!” And there in the front row was the great Jim Henson. I got in the booth, trying to find all the kit, because it was a bit confusing a few drinks down. Immediately I realise there’s a boy heckling; he’s seen every show all day and really thinks he knows how the show should go, which certainly wasn’t how it was in my mind at that point. I’m mucking about with Judy in the nude and all the cheeky lines and he pipes up “No, that’s not right. Judy doesn’t do
that.” So Judy says, “Who are you talking to, young man? Who even are you?” He heckled me all the way through it, and the more he did it the more the adults, and Jim especially, laughed. The audience was enraptured, and grew bigger and bigger, blocking the whole market. I was thinking, “Christ, this is something special.” And this kid heckling was such a scream. I wouldn’t say it was a great show technically, but it all just gelled. I came out, took a bow, with everyone cheering, then asked where the boy was, but he’d gone and done a runner. You could never repeat that moment, you can’t always work out what makes a show magical, but I’ve never seen an audience having so much fun. It’s just that beautiful moment that happens. I wouldn’t say I was trying to be clever or show off, I wasn’t, I was just enjoying myself, and feeding off their energy. I think of that show when I’m waiting in the rain at a miserable fete and smile to myself. That’s how the show should be. If you’re not enjoying it, how can you expect your audience to? Take what they give you, double it, and pay it back. Your audience deserves your best work, and so does Mr Punch. Bryan Clarke – May 2019
Bryan and Dorothy Clarke.
Max Fulham The May Fayre is truly one of my favourite events of the year and this year’s was particularly special. From the moment I stepped foot in Covent Garden I was grinning from ear to ear. The sight of all the booths set up around the garden of St Paul’s Church is wonderfully colourful. As well as the top Punch and Judy Professors, many people from the wider world of entertainment can be spotted from puppeteers, clowns, ventriloquists and more! I love watching the crowds begin to form as show music starts and swazzles begin to call. I never tire of watching Punch and Judy shows and I’m often completely drawn in having to occasionally remind myself that the antics on the playboard are the work of just two hands! And of course, at the May Fayre you can expect to see one-off surprises during the shows. Three of my favourite May Fayre moments this year were David Wilde appearing in puppet form in Joe Burns’ show; the extraordinarily long and historical string of sausages that were produced from Richard Coomb’s life size, book munching, sausage machine, managing to loop their way around the crowd twice; and the genius teleportation routine in which we saw Damien Weis’ Gnafron pop from one booth to another in search of a change of clothes for his friend Guignol, truly impressive puppetry and excellent timing! It was great to be there to celebrate Bryan Clarke’s 80th Birthday and watch him warm up for David Wilde’s show, it’s always marvellous to see him work a crowd. Every year the May Fayre more than proves how entertaining Punch and Judy still is, captivating and amusing crowds of all ages, and this year the crowds were huge, and full of laughing smiling faces, long may this continue.
Anyone who had met Robert Wade would have recog- He learnt what worked, and said that you should never nized a quiet dapper figure who carried himself like the perform without a fee. He maintained that if you want a military man he was. big audience, never refer to the kids - Punch is for everybody. His show was a feature of the Dickens festival and In early life he served in the marines and traveled the was seen in Austria, Italy and Holland. world, mostly on HMS Cornwall. This was torpedoed in 1942 but fortunately he was on leave and so continued He produced a script in conjunction with a course which on HMS Anson. For his service, Bob was awarded The he started in 1987. This followed a syllabus covering 1939-45 star, The defense medal, The conflict medal every aspect of the show. By now, he was making a full and importantly, The Atlantic Star. He had a guard of range of puppets, props, backcloths and everything ashonour at his funeral. In 1949 he left the marines and sociated with Punch and Judy. He was particularly noted began a career as a physical educational instructor. This for making Swazzles, the device used for making Punch’s might explain his great age as he continued giving classes voice. Bob invented a special jig to construct these which into his 90’s. The military gave him a discipline which gave the precise measurement required. Meanwhile his was shown in every project he undertook. In 1965 he wife Jean made the costumes - a task often overlooked met Fred Tickner who had made ‘Muffin the Mule’, a but nevertheless an essential part of the puppet. wooden marionette and one of the very first television ‘Stars’. Fred had established a reputation as a maker of One of the characteristics of the man was that he did puppets and Punch and Judy Figures. As a military man, things without claiming any reward if he felt that it was Bob would have appreciated Fred’s service on the Front right. One showman was particularly grateful for a head in the 1914-18 war. made by Fred which he had given to Bob in order to show the detail of the carving. Bob generously passed Fred’s enthusiasm for puppetry was infectious. His gen- this on so that someone else could learn from the maserosity with information, and his example, encouraged ter. Bob always used Fred’s figures in his own show. This Bob, and established a firm friendship. Bob was intro- was his abiding tribute to a mentor and friend. duced to Punch and Judy by Fred demonstrating at his kitchen table. Following a couple of lessons at that, he I would say that Bob Wade lived an exemplary life under showed him the rudiments of carving. In 1963 Bob start- pinned by service and gratitude. For this, we can all be ed performing Punch and Judy and marionettes. His was grateful. a fast, traditional show although he didn’t use a devil.
From new to old, from laughter to tears
Before I begin I would like to say I am just a performer, Iâ€™m not an historian of Punch and Judy. All of what I have written is based on my knowledge, from my experience as young Punch and Judy performer. In France, Punch and Judy are present, but they are not easy to come by. They are very popular amongst the young puppetry troupes. Why? Because, I think, they find in this show satire, sarcasm, wit and irony. They choose this show rather than a Guignol or Polichinelle show because it has become more of a simple childrenâ€™s show, to me it is not as interesting. They could of course create a Guignol show for adults, as it
would have been performed 200 years ago when Guignol was created. Polichinelle is a character from 17th Century; he is like Mr. Punch, with the same hook nosed face, the same hump on his back, the same mischievous personality. Guignol was created in 1808, and since then the puppeteers have little by little abandoned Polichinelle for Guignol shows. Today, there are not many puppet troupes who perform real Polichinelle shows, and it is rare to see a Polichinelle performance. The modern troupes of puppeteers think Guignol is mainly for children and that Polichinelle is forgotten and antiquated and do not think about recreating this show. So they decide
to perform Punch and Judy instead. That certainly seemed to be my way of thinking, and I know many other performers agree. There are two inspirational puppeteers who have helped encourage us make this choice. The first puppeteer is the late Rod Burnett, a masterful showman. His Punch and Judy show was unique, hilariously funny, beautifully presented and world famous thanks to his many appearances at international festivals. He performed many times in France at festivals and puppet theatres. Rod also offered professional training in Punch at puppetry schools in France. Many of the top glove puppet performers
him very much, The second puppeteer is Alain Recoing. He was a French master of puppetry, He did performed many contemporary puppet shows and he created a puppetry school in Paris called “Le Théâtre aux Mains Nues” (The Naked Hands Theatre). He performed two different versions of the Punch and Judy show, one traditional and one more modern. He was inspired by his study of the history of Mr Punch, which can be seen in his shows. His modern Punch influenced a great generation of puppeteers. The two puppet masters are forever tied together as Rod Burnett was invited to perform and teach the art of Punch and Judy in Alain Recoing’s school. From my own performances, I have found that Mr. Punch is not popular in France. That is not to say the audiences do not enjoy the show when they see it, but that it is rare to see Punch and Judy shows on the streets of Paris for example. The people who play Punch are mostly students of Burnett or Recoing, and enthusiasts of puppets or English culture. The most popular show in France is Guignol, he is very nice, generous,
while only fighting with bad guys. While Mr. Punch treats everyone the same his wife, his baby all of the characters of the show meet his slapstick. I have found it is better to perform Punch and Judy for an adult audience than a child or family audience, but I know this is not always the case in England having brought my show over for the May Fayre in Covent Garden. Personally, I love this show just as much as Guignol, so when I am in my booth, I give all my energy for the show. I like the real cheeky Mr Punch, tricking the audience with a childish look, and little by little, often during the baby scene, showing Punch’s naughty side. I want people to understand that it is a satirical show. During the devil scene, parents and children, everyone denounces the different actions of Punch to the Devil. At the end of my show, I stage a battle between Punch and the devil, I ask the public to shout the name of the character they support during the game, very much inspired by Rod’s show. Many times, everyone cheers the name of the devil. It is something I have never heard when I see Punch and Judy performed by a British professor. In the end, Punch kills the devil and I hear a little “Oh
Rod Burnett’s show.
Alan Recoing and Punch.
no!” It makes me laugh. When Joey the clown comes and announces to them “That’s the end of the show” I feel proud, and that’s why I love Mr. Punch. Long live this wonderful man! I’m very happy when I go to the May Fayre to see young Punch and Judy artists like me. Punch promises a bright future in England and around the world! Lyes Ouzeri, aged 17, Paris – May 2019
Lyes Ouzeri and Mr Punch.
‘la ballade de mister punch’
The 44th Annual Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival held this year on Sunday 12 May 2019 to celebrate Mr Punchâ€™s 357th birthday near the very spot that Samuel Pepys first saw Mr Punch in England in May 1662. Many thanks to Miggie Pinhorn and Alternative Arts for organising another wonderful event.
My father Harry Drewitt perfected his act using glove puppets and living marionettes during his scouting days in the late 1920’s, training that put him in good stead for a life changing experience. Harry volunteered for Army service in 1939 at the outbreak of the Second World War and was captured in early 1942 and spent the rest of the war as a Prisoner of War in Germany but relieved the pain, suffering, deprivation, cold and hunger by entertaining in the camp theatre. Dad was liberated on 23rd April 1945 St George’s Day. I was born in Epsom in the summer of 1948 and from a very early age I remember the post war recovery to civilian life most families were experiencing. At three years old I insisted on going with Dad to his shows, including his performances at the Festival of Britain in 1951. 1953 was a memorable year for me as I started school and experienced the run up to Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation, it was very exciting and I was conscious of street parties being organised and all the anticipation of this momentous event including rumours that some of my school friends were going to get a television! Soon I was standing in Park Lane with my grandparents to watch the Royal Coach come through whilst Dad was busy entertaining in Hyde Park. The work was abundant for a while that summer and Dad got £25 together and put a deposit on a house. We moved from Epsom to Ashtead in 1956 and my fathers colleague Bill Perrin MIMC had arranged for his agent Uncle George Wall-man to visit us with a view to booking Dad’s act. I remember so clearly coming home from school and George was in the back room chatting with my father. There was a case open on the floor and a lovely set of Wal Kent dolls spilling out. Seeing my delight George picked up Punch and swazzled, making my younger brother
Terry and I laugh. George was very pleased to see Dad’s show and our absolute delight and enthusiasm for all things show biz. George explained he had a disastrous post war start because having set up his summer family show on Fleetwood Pier, he went back to his digs after the shows and just before midnight on the 25th August 1952 the pier was engulfed by fire which raged for three hours totally destroying the theatre and George’s entire show including 40 Punch and Judy puppets, fit up, magic props and trained mice for his Mickeys Mouse’s Wedding routine. George recovered, started an entertainment agency in Balham then went back to work performing Punch at Blackpool Tower, leaving Betty his wife to run the agency. The agency produced many engagements for my Dad, and eventually, myself and Pauline. Pauline and I married in 1970 and I remember George visiting us in Epsom the following year. I had taken over the Punch show from my father, and had been lucky enough to purchase George Sapwell’s set of Punch and Judy figures. Dad had a swazzle but only did Punch occasionally, however George was delighted to see that Pauline and I were keen to work Punch so he arranged for us to visit him in at his house in Balham for a while and took us right through hands above head routines, the use of the swazzle and his many tricks of the trade that he had picked up after thousands of shows. It was not long before Pauline and I went out working Punch for George Wall-man Entertainments. George was a founder member of the London Society of Magicians and he made many fine magical props and routines, and I purchased many an item from him. Punch and Judy was a passion for George and he performed a great show which re-
ally inspired me so much that I still feel George’s presence when performing. George would often use his wife Betty in a routine where Betty would assist George in waking Punch up because she swazzled as well. One such routine was George calling Punch and Betty swazzled back a very disgruntled Punch, then they would change places and Betty would come out calling Punch, then Punch would throw props out of the booth including the suitcase. Wonderful stuff! Pauline and I would go to Blackpool to see his show both in The Ballroom in The Tower, and Family Fun Time in the then Ocean Room, whenever we could. I carried on getting bookings from George until 1976 when ill health forced him to retire. He died on 16th December 1981 having sold the agency to Reg Webb, however I was lucky enough to buy from Betty George’s Number 2 set of Wal Kent dolls. Thanks to George I have had a long and successful career with Punch and I owe him a great deal, he passed on his truly professional manner which was so important when you first start and I regard him as my mentor. You are fondly remembered George. Tony Drewitt MMC - May 2019
Tony Drewitt at the May Fayre.
David Wilde 22
My first recollection of Bob Wade is the 1985 Covent Garden May Fayre and seeing his sales stand, there was a set of Fred Tickner figures on it that really took my attention, Stella Richards ended up buying them. The other thing that grabbed me about Bob’s figures was that they seemed to be, for the top end of the market, they were very classy puppets, extremely well made and well dressed. They were very expensive even then. Speaking to Bob at the May Fayre he told me that he performed at the Dickens Festival at Rochester, so that year we went to see him perform. He and my grandfather, Peter Crocker, struck up quite a friendship. I remember going to see Bob do his show undercover at the Guildhall on Rochester High Street. It always seemed to be raining when we went to see him, and we went five years on the run, but his audiences there were huge because his show was so good. Bob told my grandfather that he ran Punch and Judy courses, so he kindly booked places for the both of us. The day long course took place in a pub’s function room in Rochester. Bob started with a slide show and talk on the history and meaning of Punch, he set his booth up, and would ask people to get in and out of the booth to show him what they could do, and then he would show them how to do it properly. A lot of people attending these courses already did Punch and Judy, but when he had a swazzle making part of the day it was amazing to see how few could actually wind a swazzle properly. I was the only one, thanks to my work with Leslie and Percy Press. One thing that stood out to me on that day was that there was the most magnificent Punch and Judy by Tickner on display stands. I often wondered what happened to them. I remember them vividly but I haven’t seen them since. Over the years we saw Bob at the May Fayre and Dickens Festival which we went to every year for five or six years. It became apparent that Bob was look-
ing to retire from Punch and was wanting to sell his booth and figures. So my grandfather negotiated with Bob and ended up buying the complete fit up, even the amplifier, for me to use. Bob came to my house with his wife Jean to drop it off, showed me how it all went up and two days later my grandfather and I took the show to Canon Hill Puppet Theatre at MAC, Birmingham to perform in John Blundall’s festival. Whilst I had many other puppets before that, it was my first full set. And for it to be a Tickner set, and one cherished by Bob, made it quite special. It’s a set of puppets I would never part with. I still use Bob Wade swazzles in every show I do, nobody has surpassed them, they are still the best there is, though I have retied them a few times since then. I know many other top performers use them too. One thing I liked about Bob’s show was at the beginning he used a headmaster puppet, basically implying to the boys and girls that they should be at school, and that Mr Punch has been naughty and needed to go to school too. Another thing about Bob’s show was that he was the first person I saw use the stocks rather than the noose with the hangman. He had a siren whistle for the ghost, like in The Punch and Judy Man film. It worked really well and added a great effect. Bob was very professional in set up, in his manner with bookings and in the way he wanted to be presented to the public. He treated it like a proper business, and rightly so, and was not keen on people who he described as having “shows like ragbags”. Bob used a chalkboard instead of a clock to advertise the time of the next performance because he had become frustrated by people not being able to tell the time from a traditional clock face! He did not suffer fools gladly, and was not one to join clubs, preferring the motto “paddle your own canoe”. I one sat with him at his house, at a table for two, as a young boy who wasn’t keen on eating vegetables. When he saw me pushing them round the plate he told me in no uncertain terms to eat
them. And I did. You didn’t say no or argue back to Bob. I still don’t see many people performing with Bob’s puppets. I think a lot of people bought them to display as they were of such a high finish. I have used them, and they are very practical and a joy to perform with, as well as being very friendly looking to younger audience members. There is nothing sinister in Bob’s work. Bob was one of Fred Tickner’s best friends. Not only did Fred teach him how to carve all manner of puppets, and make and design puppet stages, but also how to perform the Punch and Judy show, and they remained close until Fred passed away. I still look back at Bob Wade’s Sale Sheets and can’t believe he had sets of Tickners and Kents for sale so readily and so often, it seems like a magical time. Bob’s puppets were very bold, very vivid in colour and the costumes were amazing. They were so well made and the materials were well chosen and of a high quality. He made most of the costumes himself. Jean started making the costumes in the beginning, but when his puppets became popular she refused to spend her time sewing, so that was why you had to wait quite a long time if you ordered puppets. Their design was so eye catching and child friendly that Bob’s Punch and Judy puppets were copied for mass market by an Indonesian company and sold in toy shops in the 1990s. Lots of people still have them, sometimes mistaking them for Bob’s own work, the fabric hands are of course a give-away. He didn’t make devils, as Fred didn’t make devils. Everything he did was inspired by the great Fred Tickner, and what a man to have mentor you. I was lucky that Bob was there to guide me in my performances in the same way. David Wilde - June 2019
Snapping crocodiles, scoldings over lost sausages, and the performed there, and this year I thought ‘let’s give it a sounds of crying babies could again rise from the sands at shot. I want to bring it back, especially to children’s corGorleston if an ambitious puppeteer has his hand in it. ner near the boating lake, and bring something different that probably a lot of children have not see before.” A graphic designer who works as an education host at Great Yarmouth’s SeaLife Centre Mr Hanton is also a Mr Hanton has been a Punch and Judy performer for regular panto performer - but the big gig would be inside four years taking his show all over Norfolk, but rarely in the canvas hut at children’s corner. Bringing it back after his home town. Under his plans he would hope to per30 years would offer “something different” for visitors form around six times a year, possibly as early as Whitwho like Gorleston for its traditional, more sedate ap- sun. Performances start with a few warm-up magic tricks peal, he said. before he disappears into the theatre booth. His show follows the familiar slapstick story of Punch and Judy, feaMr Hanton, who lives in Bradwell, is in talks with Great turing a baby that is turned into sausages and eaten by a Yarmouth Borough Council to find out what hurdles crocodile with a policeman and devil figure trying to sort need to be cleared to make his dream come true and al- out the melee. ready he had been buoyed by the level of local support. As is traditional payment relies on his audiences putting a “It has all been really positive, it is a really nice feeling to pound in a hat - a process known as “bottling.” get such a warm vibe. I have always wanted to perform on Gorleston beach because some of the legends have Liz Coates - Eastern Daily Press, April 2019
My dear friend Harry Parrott left us early afternoon on January 24th. I am not sure how or when Harry and I met, but we became great friends through our mutual interest in magic as an entertainment. When I first came up with the concept of Wallisâ€™s Wonders, Harry gave freely of his knowledge and expertise. Our first catalogue featured many of his amazing creations. He lectured at each of our 6 Wonder Weekends and would always help out behind the counter at IBM conventions. Apart from his magic, he was also a noted Punch and Judy performer. He was very proud of his complete set of Quisto Puppets. Wherever he performed he would quickly gather a large audience. His shows on the village green at the Bygone Village, Fleggburgh, were a joyful experience. Harry was a little older than I and towards the end had problems walking, but, his brain never stopped and every conversation was filled with fun and one-liners. I along with the whole magic and Punch community, will miss him greatly. Sleep well dear friend. Mike Wallis - May 2019
Professor Wallace, Bolton. Â© Geoff Felix Archives
Thomas Rose Snr (Professor Roselia) performing on Great Yarmouth beach in 1929.
‘Punch and Judy is an ancient drama spanning the centuries. It has survived, in part, due to the wit and skill of its showmen.Geoff Felix has worked in puppetry and Punch and Judy for thirty-four years. Here he shares his knowledge so that you may learn its mysteries and perform the show.Anyone seeking to take up this unusual and demanding Art will find this book invaluable.’
For a copy email Geoff. at email@example.com priced at £20, you won’t be disappointed!
Welcome to the second edition of Slapstick. Produced by the team behind the Punch and Judy Page, Facebook’s number one source for all things...
Published on Jul 25, 2019
Welcome to the second edition of Slapstick. Produced by the team behind the Punch and Judy Page, Facebook’s number one source for all things...