The Wooden Set Begins
Cloth puppets are lightweight and, on the whole, have a slightly friendlier look than wooden head puppets. Wooden head puppets are often, if not always, a little creepy. And the weight adds up. However, puppets with wooden heads and hands have many sound effect options available to them that the cloth puppets don’t have, such as clapping and banging their heads together or on the playboard. And, as I tend to be a traditionalist, I knew that eventually I would want to at least have the option of using wooden puppets.
The first in the set are Mr. Punch (carved in the style of the Cruickshank illustrations of the 300+ year old Piccini Punch) and the Crocodile. For those of you keeping track, this is my 6th Mr. Punch and 5th Crocodile. I had only just finished these two puppets when I moved with my family to Tuscany and I look forward to carving Judy, the Baby, the Ghost, and the Devil at some later point when I have access to the tools.
I am hopeful that I will carve a few puppets here with the Tuscan master marionette maker Paolo Velenti, and if I do, I will keep you posted! You heard it here, first, puppet fans!
The Current Set
This is the fourth post in the evolution of my cloth puppets series. In this set, I made two different style Mr. Punches. The red one is in the traditional British style and the spots on his hump as well as his hat are copied directly from the original illustration of Punch by the famous Dicken’s Illustrator, George Cruickshank, while the white one is more in keeping with the Italian roots. Judy has been dressed in French provincial — and I may add, all of my Judy’s have been cute (Judy is usually a hag).
The babies are made of seersucker and have alpaca hair. The ghost (whose neck extends two feet) is done up in a sort of New Orleans voodoo style. The devil is modeled after another Punch operator and film director, John Waters. I also did something I have not seen before and, in an effort to avoid conflict with religious zealots, made the devil a person wearing a devil costume, rather than being the devil himself. The crocodile is made of seersucker and sequins. And everyone has matching sausages, just in case they should find themselves going through the sausage grinder some day.
And then Toby the dog joined the set a little while later.
The Principal Set
In the previous posts, I’ve shown the evolution of my puppets, from the first Mr. Punch (undersized and made of mostly felt and hot glue) to my second crocodile which was becoming dangerously close to being a work of art. Having sold my previous set, I went to work on a new one.
Since my first performance of Punch and Judy had taken place behind an upright piano, and lasted, I suppose, no more than four minutes, and involved only the skeletal cast of Mr. Punch, Judy, the baby, the crocodile, the slapstick and the sausages — I decided to reproduce that cast. As far as I am concerned, a Punch and Judy show can exist with only these principal characters and props.
I decided to have a happy and a sad baby, so that they could be switched in accordance with their moods. Mr. Punch picked up something of a creepy Tim Burton-esqe style, and something about Judy didn’t look quite like I wanted. But they were entirely hand sewn, and the quality was improving. So, I sold them and went back to the drawing board.
The Original Set
I mentioned in the previous posts that my original Mr. Punch and Crocodile puppets are currently not with us any longer and in a box in Indiana, respectively. Here are the other members of that original set along with a new Mr. Punch and Crocodile. This set was sold to a collector of folk art and these puppets were all sewn by hand. This is a pretty standard set, except for that I decided to replace the conventional ‘Joey’ clown with a ‘Pagliaccio’ type.
The British/Russian Fit-Up
In the previous post I showed my first puppet, a small Mr. Punch glove puppet held together with a little thread and a lot of hot glue. That Mr. Punch is no longer with us since, to be honest, I could no longer stand to look at him. Many of the other puppets from my first set have been sold, leaving me only with the original crocodile which I gave to my daughter. I also, somewhere in a box in Indiana, have my original baby puppet and the original string of sausages.
This is a picture of the original crocodile and my British style folding fit-up which folds up into a bundle 3′ x 3′ x 6″ which I designed and built with a Russian carpenter and theatre director named Leonid. He hardly spoke any English and had lost one of his thumbs (presumably while building something), but he was truly a master carpenter. We weren’t able to speak to each other much, but we both spoke the language of building stuff.
My First Punch (& Only Baby)
This photo was taken in 2007 by Ellen Jaskol of the Rocky Mountain News. I’m wearing the first puppet I ever made, Mr. Punch. Originally, my other hand was in the photo, too, wearing the crocodile, but Ellen thought it would look a little too scary with the crocodile hovering right over Lulu. In retrospect, she was probably right.