Sound and vision: The Tragical Comedy of Mr Punch by Paul Badger and Michael Dixon

The video shows a pared down version of Punch and Judy. There is little dialogue (thankfully, we don’t have to listen to much of Punch’s tiresome squawk) and some great sound effects. The lighting is dark, which adds to the tension. When Punch kills, he throws the body off stage and the scene cuts to what looks like a 16mm film shot of glove puppets laying in the gutter of a road.

This is the closest video I’ve found to what I’d like to do, which is to take the scene from Punch and Judy where Punch kills the baby and write a screenplay that works with the subtleties of his psychopathic nature. I’d like to shoot it in the Moving Image room, using stark lighting from the 16mm projector, which will cast shadows onto the white screen.

The scene opens with the camera focused on Punch, who is alone and staring into space – his psychosis is very present in him. A door slams. Slowly, Punch’s demeanour changes and he shouts, “Judy!” He’s demanding, not requesting, her presence. She arrives on camera and he makes a huge fuss of her with compliments and physical affection. Then she asks him to look after the baby; he bristles and agrees. Cut to a shot of the shadows of Punch and Judy. She hands him the baby and exits screen right. He tells the baby it’s pretty. The baby cries. He asks it why it’s crying… this is as far as I got today.

I spoke to Matt, Moving Image technician, about the idea of building a Punch and Judy theatre in which the screen, showing the film on a continuous loop, is housed. The theatre is inside a box that contains surround sound speakers and a bench. Matt suggested I go to Brighton Museum, where there is a Punch and Judy theatre so I can get an idea of dimensions. He suggested it might be nice to make the space spectators sit in quite small – the claustrophobic feel will reflect the feel of the film. I’m thinking of decorating the Punch and Judy theatre with dead glove puppets and blood splatters.

Punch and Judy is seen as subversive and changes with the times to reflect them. For example, in a video commissioned by the V&A, there were two babies instead of one and they looked like our current government ‘leaders’. However, this doesn’t address the violence in the show that is directed towards the wife and child and this is what I want my film to highlight.


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