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What about Punch and Judy?

July 7, 2021

It was not until I started to think about animation and stop motion that I considered puppetry and drama together.  I did not think of my creatures more than dancing things.  Even when I researched animation the books I read were about the techniques, Wallace and Grommet, moving table lamps and computer games.  I could not see how my coat dolls would fit in.  It would seem that puppets performed, ‘for entertainment the 5th Century BCE for ‘common folk at public gatherings and for the wealthy at banquets’ Beside this there were elaborate automatons that moved with cogs and levers or activated with water flow.   Some scholars believed the Greeks also had shadow theatre. Then with the fall of Rome and the growth of Christianity puppetry became anathema, seen as idolatry and a device of the devil.  So, it too did not fit into society and the new culture.  In the hostile environment, puppetry during the Middle Ages was considered to be a low form of entertainment alongside that of trained dogs and monkeys.  Puppeteers came from outcast groups such as Gypsies and Jews. (Blumenthal, E. 2005)

As a child I did not understand Punch with his long-suffering wife Judy ‘who emerged from the political turmoil in the 17th century in England’ (Diptee, J. 2011) It seemed neither funny nor educational. I have since learned that Punch for all his failings was a hero of the outsider and the neglected, with first-hand experience of the poor.  He took the opportunity to ply them with knowledge that in his opinion would bring change and freedom from the oppressors. Diptree points out at the end; that puppetry is not only a means of communication, but also an opportunity for the ‘public’ to criticise and voice their opinions about apparent oppression, hostility, and inequality.

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