Clearly we just can’t get enough of the mischievous Mr Punch, which is why hordes of people (many clutching puppets) descended upon Covent Garden to join the 350 year celebrations on Saturday.
The first record of Mr Punch was made by the diarist Samuel Pepys who referred to a puppet show he had observed in Covent Garden on 12 May 1662. Pepys enthused that he had seen: "an Italian puppet play that is within the rayles there, which is very pretty, the best that ever I saw..." The date of this performance has become the acknowledged birthday for Mr Punch in Britain. To mark 350 years the ‘Big Grin’ organised a day of festivities which included a parade, a huge birthday cake, a giant strings of sausages, a marching band and, of course, Punch & Judy booths. Even the sunshine made a welcomed appearance. Although I’m not totally sure whether the ‘Big Grin’ organised that too…
I can still remember being completely transfixed whilst watching Punch & Judy at the seaside as a child. Observing the reactions of children and adults at the celebrations this weekend it was clear that Mr Punch still has the ability to capture our imagination and amuse us in a way that few other shows can. With his anarchic nature, distinctive giggle and slapstick humour, Mr Punch’s popularity shows no signs of diminishing. His appeal has endured despite all the odds in recent times and there are now more Punch puppeteers (aka Professors) in London than ever before. That’s the way to do it! Here’s to another 350 years!
Punch, the Professor, and the pocket sized puppet
It’s show time!
That’s the way to do it! Mr Punch hits his adversary, the crocodile, with a large wooden stick known as a slapstick. The term 'slapstick comedy’ originated from its use in Punch shows.
View from the backstage area
The stars of the show
Joey the Clown arrives to infuriate and confuse Mr Punch
Mr Punch the Marionette. Punch shows were originally performed using marionette puppets until glove puppet performances became more popular towards the end of the 18th Century.
All the colours of the rainbow
The parade. Punch Professors, enthusiasts and collectors from around the world gather in Covent Garden to celebrate 350 years of Mr Punch
Introducing the Band
The balcony of the Punch & Judy pub in Covent Garden was a perfect spot to watch the festivities
Benjamin Pollock’s Toy Shop
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All photographs © Samantha Edgley. All rights reserved