Punch and Judy Redux

Punch and Judy tries hard and delivers a modest shove, but unfortunately the much needed punch never materialises

Review by Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore | 10 Aug 2007

It is 1890 and on Coney Island, New York, a convicted prisoner awaits execution. Sweltering in solitary confinement the prisoner finds a cricket, and talking to this new companion, lets his imagination run wild as he conjures up fairy tales and fables to comfort him in his last days.

Starting with this premise Punch and Judy Redux promises to be a dark, gruesome shake up of everyone’s favourite seaside puppet show. This is Punch and Judy all grown up: sex, adultery, abortion, heady cocktails and a phallic magic stick all feature behind the faintly frightening puppet masks. However, although this is an ambitious piece with nuggets of inspiration, it fails to hit the jackpot.

The subversion of the light hearted genre of puppetry is simply not enough to save a show whose muddled, confusing storytelling soon becomes dull. It is patently obvious what Dissentertainment productions wants to achieve: a criticism of the sensationalist nature of our society. In measure they are successful; a creepy, child-like breathless female journalist relays the graphic, bloody details which surround the execution and in doing so compounds our warped fascination with violence. Punch, Judy and Porko, played by actors in masks, are manifestations of our sensationalist imaginations and successfully portray the horror of the story.

Although Punch and Judy tries hard and delivers a modest shove, unfortunately the much needed punch never materialises.