More on ‘The Big Grin’ This film has been a bit of marathon, I had about an hour and half of footage. I wanted to make sure that every Mr Punch who had made the effort to attend was in the film. Some of it required quite a lot of editing as I was whizzing round without a tripod, filming much of it with my camera above my head.
Hope all you fond followers like it!
I have been banging on about Punch and Judy a bit recently partly because my son Paul is a Professor of Punch and Judy (when he is not running his IT company) although the rest of the family were not Punch and Judy people.
In case you missed it (how could you on this blog) we were marionette makers and performers, but in those days everyone knew everyone else so we knew the original Percy Press who was famous for his performances in Covent Garden as was his son Percy Press Junior.
Another puppet man mate was Bob Pelham who made the toys in the late 40’s and 50’s and here today is David Leech who was one of Bob’s associates. He has his own company making toy marionettes and today was launching a new addition to the family, a marionette Mr. Punch! (check his website)
Whatever you think about Mr. Punch and lots of people don’t like him or approve of his antics, he was very much part of the old seaside tradition.
Some Punch and Judy men barely made a living, the work in the old days was seasonal and the takings relied on a ‘bottler’ the person who went round with a bottle to collect the money for the show before the audience slipped away without bothering to pay! Later the ‘bottler’ would use a hat for the money. These days many Punch men command a fee for their show so the bottling bit is the icing on the cake!
I can’t help smiling when Punch and Judy men claim to be the original from that town. There was always more than one, striving to keep their status and their plot on this or that beach! Now there are schools to teach the art, no doubt awarding diplomas, but that is only the beginning, a Punch and Judy performer will still have to spend years developing his skills. Success in this business depends on whether one can actually made a living as a Punch and Judy man, or woman, or indeed a marionette maker and performer.
As a daughter of puppeteers it was a very insecure life. I used to say we were rich or poor depending on the sun and the season! I have in the past sometimes envied puppeteers who have been subsidised by grants from public funding for the arts. My father prided himself in being self supporting and independent.
Our marionettes are of course works of art, (as many Mr Punch puppets are). My father who created them, had their character and its movement developing in his mind as he made them. This was why he never made marionettes for anyone else. He once broke this self imposed rule once to make copies of two or our marionettes for a theatre company in Windsor. Even our marionettes for the feature film ‘ Oh A Lovely War’ on Brighton’s West Pier, were not for sale, but dressed, played their part and came home, and, like real actors, paid their rightful fee!
Mr Punch post script – I have just received a wonderful book called ‘A Timber Idol’ by Martin MacGilp about the evidence that Mr Punch has been in Scotland since the seventeeth century. A gem of a book full of pictures and history anyone who loves Mr Punch will love it. http://www.gilpress.co.uk
Our magical marionette site see link on right!