acepuppets

Archive for March 2012


Is it appropriate for Punch and Judy shows to be completely traditional today?

by Sian Hunter on Thursday, 14 April 2011 at 19:11 ·

Having made a lucky find during the first month of Acepuppets we became the proud owners of an old traditional Punch and Judy theatre. It therefore seemed fitting to produce an Acepuppets version of the centuries old famous show.

The first question we had to ask was how true we would keep to tradition. After reading a number of scripts and history of Punch and Judy shows, there seems to be a general consensus that Punch is a psychotic, psychopathic cold blooded murderer who lacks regard for authority and fears no one, including the Devil. It would appear that Punch is indeed a physical manifestation of the ‘Id’ described by Freud where the person is no longer restrained by social constraints and acts without any regard to anyone else.

However another opinion is that Punch is in fact an anti – hero who rises above his bullies and disposes of them. He has a winging baby, a nagging wife and authority figures that are sometimes hypocritical in their approach to maintaining their power.

Whatever opinion you have about the force that drives punch to murder, the question still remains – is it appropriate to re –enact the show using age old traditional conventions or have we become so politically correct that it would be risky to expose delicate minds to such atrocities?

For example by making Punch the hero of the piece are we condoning wife beating, child abuse and murder? Is it fitting to show a complete disregard for authority by murdering a policeman and hangman because they are trying to punish him for his crime? Animal lovers could be up in arms because he kills a dog and crocodile, who, in some circumstances bite off his nose. Not to forgetting his mistress Pretty Polly the only person he seems to truly care about and only kisses her and treats her with kindness. Maybe Judy did nag him into insanity, the performance is only a snapshot into their lives, we are not really able to truly know the full story – it is for us to decide whether Punch is villain or victim.

If you were to omit the psychotic personality from Punch we then have to ask is if the show is still a Punch and Judy show? The phrase ‘There is no show without Punch’ maybe referring to his character rather than a physical representation in the form of a puppet. So a punch puppet may be present but due to a corrected personality he is no longer really Punch but another character that looks like Punch, rather like someone after they have encountered a head injury – they look the same but have become very different to the person they were before.

We also have to consider whether it would be the parents or the children who would be most disturbed by the content. I remember being very amused as a child when the Road Runner regularly blew up the coyote and Tom and Jerry took it in turns to beat each other up. I was always fully aware that the characters were figments of an animator’s imagination and that the characters couldn’t really die anyway because they weren’t real. By acting out taboo subjects using inanimate objects representing sections in society we allow ourselves to laugh without prejudice or guilt because comedy is always based on the negative sides of life. Stand up comedians draw laughs by highlighting deficiencies or peculiarities of people. A tame example is Peter Kaye and, ‘putting the big light on’. You laugh doubly at crude comedians firstly because it is funny and secondly because you are laughing and you shouldn’t so you are being a little bit naughty. Puppets are similar to cartoon characters in the fact that they are not real and therefore the crime being committed is not real, after all the puppets will be alive and well for their next performance.

Times have changed, we live in a contradictory world where openness is the name of the game and we are exposed to graphical pictures of death and destruction in the form of news reports, television programmes, computer games and even books. Sometimes reality and fiction merge and we become desensitised to the value of the destroyed lives we are privy to seeing – I have seen dead bodies on television but have chosen not to view deceased relatives because I wanted to remember them as they were when they were alive and yet all of the news channels seem to think it is fine for me to gawp at someone else’s dead relative – where is the respect in that? On the other hand people in authority are very concerned how we can cope with dealing with these images and try to protect us from feeling discriminated against and now we can claim compensation for hurt feelings and yet celebrities, who air their dirty laundry in public seem to have lives that would make Mr punch blush in embarrassment. In fact most reality shows laugh at vulnerable people who truly believe that they are the next ‘big thing’. Laughing at the pain of real people is much crueller than laughing at puppets that don’t have feelings at all.

Our audience is going to consist of children between the ages of three to nine so hopefully they won’t have been exposed to such horrors. This brings us to the question of what a child’s perception of Punch and Judy is. The whole performance revolves around the use of a ‘Slapstick’ which is used to slap and kill the other characters and of course it is the origin of slapstick comedy – you remember Laurel and Hardy hitting each other with a rotating ladder and Harold Lloyd getting stuck on poles attached to skyscrapers in New York. Slapstick used to be the greatest form of comedy entertainment but has diminished recently due to the fact that people are no longer able to laugh at themselves as easily as in the past and ‘Health and Safety’, which has improved our lives significantly, (you only have to look at documentaries of countries where there is no protection for employees and they live in a Victorian environment to see how much.) unfortunately we have become a society that has to find someone to blame when accidents happen. Slapstick is all about accidents and therefore is too risky and simple to contemplate being sophisticated comedy. Do children see the psychopath or do they just see puppets hitting each other?

The question we therefore have to ask is – Would people complain more if Punch killed his cast members or would they complain more if he didn’t?

Which version would I prefer my son to watch? I would be happy for him to see the original version because at the tender age of two he can understand that puppets only come to life on someone’s hand and that they are not real. He is young enough to find Slapstick hilarious and would probably enjoy the old black and white films made by Laurel and Hardy.

When I wrote this final paragraph I didn’t realise that my son would find people being cruel to each other distressing so I would show him my version, where there is no wife beating and assault just comedy and amusement.

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I can’t believe it – a year ago today I was preparing for an interview with the local paper about starting my business.  Here I am a year later celebrating a wonderful year of adventure and great fun.

I spent nine months preparing the start of Acepuppets and realise that, as with driving, it is the beginning of learning your craft.  My education has been two-fold because I have had to learn how to run a business including, accounting software, marketing, website design, dealing with customers, and understand that cash flow is key to keeping the ship sailing.  Secondly I have had to let my ideas develop and shape themselves to fit the needs of my customers.

At first everything was nerve-wracking and sheer panic would grip me when I had a booking only to find that it was totally unnecessary and that my customers and their children were the loveliest people I have had the privilege to meet.  I am starting to relax into my job now and have a much more chilled out approach, it is very handy being able to seek advice from entertainers all over the country – I have had very kind advice from Glynn Edwards the famous Punch and Judy Professor in Brighton and Diane Goldie an entertainer in London who has performed in front of Natasha Kaplinsky’s children.

Acepuppets has really taken shape and has many elements, which are based around the ethos of ‘developing confidence through puppet shows, drama and craft’, The age range catered for is from Early Years to the end of key stage two.  I have identified areas where my expertise needs to be developed so that I can provide the best service possible.  I will be starting by doing a diploma in drama in education followed by diplomas in early year provision.

Presently I work very part-time because I have a fantastic little boy who needs me to spend time with him and give him the best start in life as possible.  I have planned that as Alistair’s education becomes more full-time so does my capacity to work and promote the business more.  Time is something I need to spend on the business in order to create and plan my ideas and this is done with a pen and a note book that I carry around with me everywhere.  I have made a conscious decision to take my time in planning every aspect such as drama clubs, craft clubs etc because to rush would compromise on quality and the success of my ideas.

I first wrote about coping with social networking on the internet and how I didn’t really know how to approach it – well I am getting better at it – I don’t sound cool yet but I am getting there and will probably be quirky rather than cool any way.

I am so looking forward to my second year and am even more excited than last year!!! I have a funday, weddings and parties to look forward to in the next couple of months

 


This week Britannica announced that they were no longer going to produce a book version of their encyclopaedias, this is a definite sign of the times.  However I think people may purchase e-book versions and move on with technology.

Encyclopaedias always seemed to have strange place in people’s homes, they were extremely expensive and cost the price of a car many years ago.  They were  displayed in a special cabinet and were paid for by higher purchase which was a little bit like paying a mortgage for the books.  So it was hardly surprising that they were rarely read, which defeats the point of having them.

My mother’s family had a set of encyclopaedias kept in a display cabinet to keep them pristine and perfect.  The ritual to read the books involved; putting a special table cloth on the table, washing your hands and turning the pages as if the book was an ancient Bible.  As a child I would observe these fountains of knowledge in the display cabinet and sensed that they were so special that I didn’t read them either.  So an incredible amount of information in wonderful books wasn’t even looked at because they became ornaments rather than books.

I have a set of children’s encyclopaedias, they are American and from the ‘World Book’ series.  I bought the complete set of twenty two pristine books from the local library for £10 – bargain!!! I am delighted and the books are kept on a low shelf in the sitting room so that they are accessible to my son and because I paid such a low price for them there is no ritual involved and my son is encouraged to look at them.  He is nearly three now and was only a year old when I bought them so his interest in them started off as pulling them off the shelf and building towers with them.  Now he will bring a book to you and ask you to tell the story about the pictures and respond by saying, ‘good story, good story’, and proceed to get another book to find out about the pictures.  My brother found this amusing with the first five books but we had to try to stop Alistair taking the whole set for him to look at.

I really like being able to dip into the books and learn new facts by flicking through the pages, my son has a hunger for knowledge and I hope that he will enjoy dipping into them as he gets older.  I intend our encyclopedias to be dog eared, well read, cherished by my family, dusty and faded – this means that they will have been well used and properly loved rather than worshipped.

PS.  The spell check doesn’t seem to like any version of encyclopaedia so I apologise for the spelling error.


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This is so very true, I am so glad that such an experienced entertainer has written this blog.

Diane's Puppets kids party heaven

The biggest enemy I face at parties is NOISE.

Have you ever considered the impact of acoustics when choosing where to have your party and how many people you intend to invite?

If you intend to have your party at a large venue, ie a church hall, do take into consideration the impact of the echoing acoustics because of the high ceilings and uncarpeted floors. The smallest noise is magnified and bounces around the cavernous space. Small children can and do get very intimidated by the high noise levels of a large church hall. It only takes one child scraping a chair across the floor to fill the space with cacophony. Remember as well that children fill whatever space they get, so give them a huge space and they will use it by running around, chasing and sliding. Space is exciting and begs to be taken advantage of. Entertainers often…

View original post 391 more words


Gliese 581g is located in its star’s “Goldilocks zone” – a zone in space where temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water.

I really like it when scientists make the explanations their findings easier to understand for us mere mortals with an average IQ.  Of course I am referring to the finding of Gilese 581G, a planet found in the ‘Goldilocks’ zone.

It is a very clear and understandable description but I would be wary of packing my rucksack and boarding a flight to the planet because you know what happened to Goldilocks!  Imagine a large colony of Earthlings settling down to sleep in the most comfortable beds available snoring in contentment when they are woken up by the original big burly inhabitants of the planet.

The Three Bears were not very pleased that Goldilocks broke into their property, broke their furniture, contaminated and ate their food and to top it all tried their beds for size before settling for Baby Bear’s bed.  What if there were other life forms already on the planet who didn’t want squatters thank you very much!  If the planet does have the perfect conditions for life, it is highly likely that life already exits there.

   Gliese 581 g

Here is a picture from the BBC site showing an artist’s impression of the planet and its parent star.

Also who would be in charge of the planet – I think it would be the Downing Street cat – I saw it being let into Ten Downing Street last night during a news report by the BBC.  I can’t remember what the report was about but I will never forget the cat.  Talking about cats and physics could lead us to a discussion about Schrödinger’s cat, but at this moment in time I don’t quite understand the theory yet but I won’t try the experiment as I don’t want to kill my cat Poppy.

 

Gliese 581g is located in…


In my weird wisdom I decided that it would be nice to share my stories with everyone by reading them out and uploading the video on to YouTube so that I could embed it into my website.  Well I have recorded and uploaded three videos and cringe at the thought of watching them.

I seem to curl up inside like a snail when in front of any kind of camera and pull some sort of nauseous face which totally distorts my features making me look very uncomfortable in front of the camera.  I blame my father for this affliction, as he is a very keen photographer and has pointed a camera in my face at every opportunity since I was born, causing me to scowl more and more at a lens – I will appreciate the record of our lives in the future I am sure.

The stories are all original and are also puppet shows, I consider them to be at second draft stage because I don’t think that they are ready to be published in any form yet.  I will be doing a diploma in writing for children in the future to learn how to remedy this.

This is a link to the Story of the Month page of my website so you can have a look – I am still dealing with sound quality and may re-record them again at a later date.

http://www.acepuppets.co.uk/storyofthemonth.html


When I used to watch the credits of children’s programmes I was always surprised at the number of people involved in enabling a twenty minute production to take place.  After writing and producing my own puppet shows I realise exactly why so many people are involved.

You would expect a twenty five minute puppet show to take twenty five minutes to organise, but no that is not the case for me. In order for puppet shows to be written, rehearsed, tweaked and be ready to be shared with an audience it takes me just over a year.

  • This is partially due to time restrictions – I have to spend time with my own child and nurture and teach him bad habits and all of that.
  • Secondly the show has to be written as a story first to give the whole idea structure.
  • Thirdly the story has to be adapted to be a script – all of my scripts are written with just two characters speaking at one time because I only have two hands.
  • Fourthly I have to read through the script to improve its comfort level.
  • Next I have to produce the accompanying sound track so that the performance has sounds, music and remains tight.
  • Then I have to alter the script to fit in with puppet changes.
  • A number of rehearsals take place.
  • I dream about the show for weeks and practise in my sleep.
  • Details of the puppet show is put on the website and on leaflets.
  • After every performance the script and show is reviewed and improved for next time.

I also have to make sure that my hands don’t get too hot during a performance because it makes it more difficult to put the puppets on quickly.  I write a script so that I can ad-lib and alter the show to suit the audiences needs.  Every performance is different and requires unique rehearsing – if the show is for a boy’s party I tend to focus on the insects and monsters and focus on the princess and fairy for a girl’s show.  You only have to attend a party where the children are dressed up – the girls are dressed in pink and sequins while the boys tend to wear costumes of many different colours.  Most girls dream of being a princess while boys want to be super heroes.

And being chief, cook and bottle-washer in Acepuppets the only name on the credits is mine – and boy the satisfaction and credit of a successful performance is completely down to me and I thoroughly enjoy claiming all of the credit for my work!!