Commedia actors, extremely popular in Italy, travelled and established themselves throughout Medieval Europe.
In England, Pulchinella was shortened to Punch and continued to delight audiences with his irreverence toward convention and outlandish antics. Hook-nosed and hunch-backed, like the Italian Pulchinella, Punch continued to be a mischievous, rebellious, anti-hero. Although he himself came from abroad, his wife Judy (originally Dame Joan) is British- as are the other characters in the show.
The puppeteers who perform these shows are called 'professors.' They inherit this special position from their fathers, who inherit it from their fathers, as the ancestral tradition goes. After 200 years, the drama of Punch and Judy remains the same. Punch continues to fight with Judy, authority, and everyone else, trying to get away with everything he can. According to a lifelong 'professor': "You can't change Punch and Judy!"
Yet, the world has changed.
There are concerns that the central elements of the act prepetuate prejudicial stereotypes and it encourages inappropriate behavior- including domestic violence. However, these concerns are met with hostility and resistance by many fans and 'professors' who insist you can't break the rules of Punch and Judy, stating- "Punch can never be killed, he can never be destroyed, Punch is eternal."
In the spririt of Mr. Punch, the eternal rule-breaker, The Grace Menagerie brings you The Comical Tragedy or Tragical Comedy of The Brothers Punch, which parts company with the traditional play and focuses instead on Punch's narcissism. Also, Judy, in this current manifestation, is not his wife. Hasn't been for years. She left a long time ago, got a PhD, and founded a research center devoted to the cultural advancement of women. It should be noted that Judy's interest in Punch is less with him and more with the phenomenon that he continues to be a celebrated cultural icon.
A performance of The Wise Sophia at ANTHROPOLOGIE in New Orleans featuring Patsy Grace with Sarah Montes playing cello. Puppeteers are Janine Gilbert, Kate Becker and Elizabeth Nichol.