Despite Mr Punch's ferocious reputation for beating up his wife, Judy - and indeed anyone else in range - Punch and Judy puppets, along with a supporting cast of a policeman, a baby, clown, beadle and crocodile - with sausages - remain very popular with children.
On Aug. 30, the Royal Mail launched a new series of six stamps each with a representation of the cast of this slapstick show, despite reservations from some quarters given the violence traditionally associated with the Punch and Judy routines. (That said, children have always enjoyed ritualized and unrealistic violence, whether in the form of Red Riding Hood's wolf, the Giant at the top of Jack's beanstalk or the adventures of the cartoon duo Tom and Jerry.)
Italian in origin, Punch and Judy puppets arrived in England in the early 1660s, where the first performance was recorded by the diarist Samuel Pepys, who saw a Punch and Judy performance by the portico of St Paul's church, Covent Garden. Said portico, immortalized in the opening scene of My Fair Lady, still has an inscription testifying to Pepys' sighting inscribed on the wall.
Today the street entertainers tend to be trendy, young and real, but Punch and Judy shows are still regularly staged on the opposite side of Covent Garden piazza: on the north side near the corner of the new extension to the Royal Opera House, and on the south side towards the entrance to the Transport Museum. Both 'pitches' regularly attract audiences of spell bound children.
by Paul Webb Theatrenow