Professor Preston’s Historic Punch and Judy Show
Celebrating a three hundred year old puppet tradition
One of Australia’s most popular puppet shows…..Preston’s Historic Punch and Judy is one of the few ‘authentic’ Punch and Judy puppet shows still surviving in Australia. It is presented in the traditional style made famous by the early Punchmen of the Victorian and Edwardian periods. It features many of the old characters, plot and scenes that are associated with the Punch and Judy show (which arrived in Australia in the 1840’s) the show is presented in a beautiful portable puppet booth and of course the voice of Mr Punch is done with a ‘swazzle’..the secret puppeteers vocal device traditionally used to create the magic of this historical puppet show.
The show is presented by puppeteer, actor, musician, arts event organizer Keith Preston.
Professor Preston was born in the UK and grew up seeing various Punch and Judy and Pantomime shows in his childhood. He is a drama graduate from Flinders University and has worked extensively in community arts, theatre, traditional and world music and events management.
Preston’s Historic Punch and Judy was established in 1994 and is based in Adelaide, South Australia but performs all around Australia and overseas. While I do perform shows for children’s parties and community events my aim has been to present Punch and Judy as an important cultural tradition and as a form of folk-puppetry which in its time influenced theatre, television and film. In this respect I have taken Punch and Judy to many arts venues, cultural festivals and community celebrations where I perform for adults as well as families and children. Believe me, after all these centuries Punch and Judy is still alive, relevant and fantastic entertainment.. enjoyed by all who experience a performance.
Shows I Present
- Seaside Punch and Judy
This is the traditional show for families, kids and community performances and is based on the traditional shows of the late Victorian and Edwardian period. Lots of action, audience participation and slapstick comedy. All the favourite characters appear. Punch, Judy, Baby, Crocodile, Policeman, Clown, Doctor, Horse and so on. Depending on the audience the Ghost, Hangman and Devil may also make an appearance.
Running Time: From 20 mins – 40 mins
At some Festivals I present two or three short shows during a day.
- Adult Punch and Judy
This is the darker but still comic version of the Punch and Judy show. This is the ‘gothic’style of show which might have been seen on the streets in the early days of the show before it became more suitable for children. Yes it is more violent and naughty but it is the authentic show as it would have been seen in its early days.
This show is often presented in an evening timeslot with stage lighting and fog machine for effects. Its scary…..for adults!
- Musical Punch and Judy Shows
Both the Seaside and Adult shows can be presented solo or with live music accompaniment. As I am also a musician I bring a good approach to traditional music. I play four different instruments. In my live shows I work with acclaimed ‘blind’ musician Tony Doyle who is a virtuoso tin whistle and wind-channeller player (this is a midi synthesizer instrument) As a two man outfit we merge puppetry and music seamlessly with a soundtrack of traditional folk music, sound effects and creative musical interludes.
- Punch and Judy Powerpoint Presentation ‘The Secret Life of Mr Punch’
At many festivals I add to the performance by giving a presentation. People see the show and want to know what it is all about ? This is a presentation from a Laptop with projector or delivered as a talk interspiced with demonstrations from the puppet show. The presentation has many great historical images and explains the history, origins, puppetry tricks and the symbolic and hidden meanings within the Punch and Judy show.
My own assertion is that the ‘meaning of life’ is hidden within the performance of the Punch and Judy show. How ?.. Well you’ll have to find out won’t you
But wait there’s more !!
- Mulligan, Molly & Mulligan – A Celtic Punch & Judy Show
In September 2008 Tony Doyle and myself launched a brand new show ‘Milligan, Molly & Mulligan. It’s a hand puppet show with live music presented in an extended Punch and Judy booth. (That way I can present Punch and Milligan shows in the same venue) It features hand puppets especially carved by Melbourne’s Chris Van der Craats and is a comic blend of Celtic fairytales, music, storytelling all with a very Australian edge and a Punch and Judy style of presentation. The mist is swirling, bagpipes are playing, harps are harping and banshees wailing as the puppets are led on a merry chase through a Celtic Dreamtime.
Running time 30-50 mins
- Rod & Dingo the Street Puppets
For special festivals and celebrations I also bring along life size puppets of ‘Rod’ an old man who dances jigs and his sheepdog ‘Dingo’ that take part in schools shows, parades and processions, improvised comedy and warm ups for concerts. Dinfgo is the smartest dog in Australia but whatever you do don’t mention the word ‘cats’!
Keith Preston - Punch Professor
I have presented over one thousand Punch and Judy shows since I started in 1984. Mr Punch has appeared at all kinds of Festivals & Fetes, Puppet venues and Fests, Parties, Community Centres, Fundraisers, Arts Centres, Markets, Theatres, Libraries, Seasides and Streets, Seniors Homes, Schools, Shopping Centres, heritage events and historic homes, private parties … in fact, anywhere where people love to have a good time…
Not everyone loves a god time unfortunately and those bums who run Circular Quay in Sydney should be especially mentioned for booting me out and not allowing Mr Punch to busk in front of the Harbor Bridge and Opera House…despite the fact I paid for a buskign licence….although I did get three successful shows in before I departed.
ABC Television recently did a short documentary on myself and Professor Lachlan Haig (Australia’s other foremost Professor) This is available on request from myself.
I cannot list all the shows I have done of course and while I love doing shows in small venues and for community events I have to mention some of the higher profile shows that Mr Punch has appeared at:-
Pakistan International Puppet Festival . Lahore, Pakistan
Da Da Fest. Liverpool England. UK
Concert of Colours. Detroit. Michigan USA
California World Music Festival. Nevada City, California USA
Out of the Box Puppet Festival, Singapore
Powerhouse Museum. Sydney NSW
One Van Puppet Festival. Blue Mountains, NSW
Illawarra Folk Festival NSW
Turning Wave Celtic Festival. Gundagai. NSW
Melbourne International Puppet Carnival. Federation Square, Melbourne Victoria
Melbourne Arts Centre. Exhibition opening. Melbourne Victoria.
Hollywood Centro Shopping Centres, Sunshine, Melbourne & Sunbury Victoria
Global Arts Gallery Season Ipswich Queensland
Queensland Multicultural Festival, Roma Park. Brisbane Queensland
Warwick St Georges Society Centenary. Queensland
Woodford Folk Festival, Queensland
National Folk Festival Canberra ACT
Victor Harbor Folk Festival South Australia
Carnevale, Italian Festival. Adelaide South Australia
Schutzenfest German Festival, Adelaide, South Australia
Medieval Festivals - Birdwood & Gumeracha South Australia.
Urrbrae House History Day South Australia
Highercombe Museum. History Week. South Australia
Puppet Palace. Adelaide Festival Fringe. South Australia
Barossa Vintage Festival. (Nuriootpa & Angaston) South Australia
Willunga Folk Festival. South Australia
Goolwa Wooden Boat & Music Festival. South Australia
Prospect Fair South Australia
Celtica Festival Port Adelaide, South Australia