Punch and Judy makes comeback

 

Punch and Judy is making a comeback - but without the violence or dropped baby.

The traditional seaside attraction has been revamped and set in contemporary Britain to mark its 350th anniversary.

But comedian Ken Dodd, who is patron of the Punch and Judy Fellowship, criticised the radically-altered show.

Puppets of modern-day figures such as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as Cleggy The Clown, TV mogul Simon Cowell, London mayor Boris Johnson and Prince Harry feature in the show, which takes "modern sensibilities into account".

The new version, where the baby no longer gets dropped and Punch does not beat his wife, has been penned by John Phelps and Gary Lawson, whose credits include episodes of Goodnight Sweetheart and Birds Of A Feather.

It features Punch as a tracksuit-wearing benefits cheat and Judy as an aspiring Wag.

While the devil is no longer in it, new hate figures include an EU sausage inspector and a loan shark.

TV channel Gold said that it asked the writers to create the show after a survey of 2,000 British parents found that 40% said jokes about domestic violence and baby cruelty were a turn-off.

Gold general manager Steve North said: "Punch and Judy are quintessentially British and hugely important part of our culture. This project is all about preserving that culture and introducing it to a new generation."

He insisted: "This is not a politically correct makeover - the new show is just as anarchic and funny as it has always been, it's simply a modern day version with modern day themes that we can all relate to."

But comedian Dodd said there was no need to alter the traditional show.

"Children of all ages have enough common sense and watch enough TV and films to know what's fiction and what's real life. They should keep it traditional," he said.

"It's awful to use contemporary figures. They've done it in the past for satirical shows and it isn't funny.

"Punch and Judy are puppets and even children know they are puppets. They see slapstick at the circus or in pantomime, they know it's a joke... Humour is a beautiful gift. A sense of humour is a wonderful thing. It shouldn't be hijacked."

The first record of Punch performing in public in England is contained in Samuel Pepys's diary in 1662, in which he wrote about a show he saw in Covent Garden, but Mr Punch's origins in Europe go back further to the character of Pulcinella.

Shaun Williamson, who starred in Extras and as Barry in EastEnders, will take the role of the bottler - traditionally, the money collector - later this month in the Covent Garden premiere of Punch And Judy Rebooted, which will also be shown on Gold's website before it goes to Great Yarmouth and Scarborough.

PA

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