Gothic Punch & Judy [FringeTIX]
Professor Haig @ Puppet Palace
10:00pm, Fri 20 Feb 2009
There’s a fair old crowd for opening night at the Puppet Palace – maybe 25-30 people all up, including (presumably) the chap who wrote this review, which appears to be pretty thorough. I don’t know why I bother, really. Apart from generally better spelling, obviously.
So we start late, eventually filing into the Palace to find the Punch & Judy booth front-and-centre. There’s another such booth to the right, which my companion reliably informed me was more of Tudor origins than gothic. No matter; Professor Haig addresses the crowd prior to the performance, explaining that this production was based on the “original” (well, circa 19th Century, anyway) script – and as such, resurrected some of the more politically incorrect aspects of the story.
Now, this was my first ever Punch & Judy show – so I was somewhat surprised to see what an utter prick Punch is. And violent, too – for some reason, I kept getting flashbacks to A Clockwork Orange‘s idea of ultraviolence, so heavy-handed and brutal were Mr Punch’s attacks on his wife, the policeman, the hangman, and the Devil. Especially the Devil – there was some serious beating going on there. But, as befitting the “adults only” tag affixed to this show, there was also more than a hint of sex early on; but it’s the violence that lingers, with the loud cracking of Punch’s whacking stick on the other character’s wooden heads being particularly memorable.
True, Professor Haig’s swazzle for Punch’s voice got grating after awhile, and the story… well, there’s not much resolution there, really. Complete bastard does shitty things and gets away with it. A morality play for our times, I guess. But Gothic Punch & Judy comes recommended; a decent performance, short and sweet, more a quality palate cleanser than a main course.