This has to be the most in-your-face portrait I have done. A long way from the gentle pictures I’ve made till now.
Mr Punch is well known to the British Audience – an ancient character in puppetry with recent roots in the 17th century and ancient roots in the Etruscan and Greek theatre. There is something of Mr Punch in all of us – the expression of the ID referred to previously – he could be called the Everyman. This picture contains Mr P himself of course, together with the famous gallows into which he tricks the hangman, the skeleton who haunts him afterwards, and the notorious (and phallic) club with which he beats other characters to death. Even up until the 1960s no seaside town was complete without a Punch and Judy show on the sands, and children screaming “Oh, no, he isn’t!” “Oh, yes, he is!” and “He’s beh-iii-ind you!” Unfortunately censorious political correctness has threatened Punch and Judy shows. Hopefully resurgence will occur. Much of Mr Punch’s murdering propensity is comedy made humorous by wooden faces and the rictus of the characters, the funny voice, the fact that he is hen-pecked by Judy, and most of the characters “had it coming” anyway. A quick explanation – Mr Ketch in the 1680s was a notoriously incompetent executioner who botched the beheadings of several victims causing horrible pain and suffering.
Here is a short excerpt from Chris Somerville ( http://www.punchandjudy.com/ ).
Ketch: Mr Punch I am here to see that you pay for your crimes. You are to be hung by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead! [Hits the stage to emphasise each word.]
Punch: What three times over?
Ketch: Not three times over, only once will be enough. Mr Punch you are going to suffer.
Punch: Supper, I’ve already had my supper.
Ketch: And that’ll be your last supper! Mr Punch I wants you to walk up to the gallows, say your sorrys and put your head into this ‘ere noose. [Points to the noose hanging before Mr Punch.]
Punch: What like this? [Puts his head above the noose]
Ketch: No not like that Mr Punch. Lower down!
Punch: Like this? [Puts his head below the noose]
Ketch: No, no, no, not like that. Higher up!
Punch: What like this. [Puts it above the noose again.]
Ketch: No, no, no! That’s not the way to do it! In ‘ere. [puts his hand through the noose.]
Punch: Well I’ve never been hung before. P’haps you could show me how to do it?
Ketch: Show you how to do it? [To audience.] Shall I show ‘im ‘ow to do it? I ‘spose I’d better else we’ll be ‘ere all day. You walks up to the gallows like this. [he walks up to where the noose hangs.]You says your sorries [makes a gesture to the audience.] and you puts your head in the noose like this. [He puts his head through the noose.]
Punch: Oh I get the hang of it. Then I do this. [Punch pushes him so that he is left hanging from the gallows.] That’s the way to do it! That’s the way to do it!