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  • Theatre Trip Review - 'What's Up Mr Punch'

Theatre Trip Review - 'What's Up Mr Punch'

8th October 2014

'What's Up Mr Punch' was performed by two ex Clarendon Theatre Studies students.

The three puppets introduced into the performance were the Policeman, the Devil and the young version of Mr Punch himself. The puppets were used to distinguish Mr Punch's past choices and mistakes and they each created mood and atmosphere by the used of dialect/voice, appearance, expression, movement, content and general association.

One example of how different puppets created different moods was the Policeman. The Policeman wore a stereotypical blue uniform paired with a black club, he had red cheeks and a large stomach. Despite the fact he yielded a weapon, he seemed to cower under Mr Punch's smart mouth and wit which was amusing for the audience. Mr Punch addressed the Policeman with insults of which was comical to the audience but was also used to demonstrate Mr Punch's mistreatment of others for his own personal gain. The fact a policeman - a figure of control and keeper of balance- could be demeaned or even belittled by the average man - in Mr Punch's case, the average sinner- was quite comedic. However, it could also be interpreted as a reflection upon societies dysfunction; use of satire. The Policeman had an averagely pitched voice for a male of which the audience could relate to. In comparison to the other characters in the performance, the Policeman had the most average looking physique and voice which meant the audience and I could feel more at ease with his character. It is because of this reason that the audience and I felt sorry for the Policeman when Mr Punch verbally tormented him; it was then that the mood of sadness was introduced. The Policeman roamed around the least out of all the other puppets, his lack of movement made him appear quite shy. The puppeteers kept their gazes on their controlled puppet at all times, but because the policeman's actions weren't very extreme, they did not use their own expression to enhance his passion or meaning. The Policeman's character was less intense than the other characters within the performance, this is why his body language and movements were small and enclosed, which enhanced the mood of familiarity previously mentioned. All in all, the Policeman created moods of humour, sadness and familiarity. He seemed to be the only character within the performance with humanity as he was the most sane out of all the puppets, he also did not review violence and death as a laughing matter. The most affective skill that the puppeteers used to portray the mood and character of the Policeman was his movement and gesture, I felt that this particular skill showed how humble and shy his personality was and his subtle movements made the audience feel more welcome, also no other skill (such as voice and expression) demonstrated the policeman's personality quite as well in my opinion.

The second puppet the audience was introduced to was the Devil. The Devil wore black and red, he had a large red face with high pointy eyebrows and large eyes. He was used to show the evil behind Mr Punch's past actions. The Devil created a dark mood by the menacing way he moved; he liked to twist and turn very threateningly and explored the room he had very freely. His movements were overall precarious and cat-like; the way the devil lazed around on Mr Punch's lap was a breach in his personal space and could be seen as quite discomforting for both the audience and Mr Punch. The Devils appearance was very grand and was caked with the common stereotypical features of a devil, this broadened the mood of darkness and introduced gothic, eerie elements into his character. The fact a stereotype appearance was used caused the audience to associate the Devil with something to fear;  in that sense, mood was created as soon as the audience laid eyes on the Devil. The puppeteers portrayed the Devil with having a large, booming voice, this showed how dominant and powerful he was. The Devil made Mr Punch appear powerless as Mr Punch seemed sudden to fear him and did not bombard him with insults alike the way he did with the Policeman, this expanded upon the mood of discomfort mentioned above. The puppeteers created moods of mainly discomfort and fear using the Devil, not just by the way the puppeteers portrayed him, but also because of his general, well-known association with evil and darkness. The most effective skill used by the puppeteers to convey mood when portraying the devil was movement, as it made the devil appear mysterious and devious; he slithered around like a snake, a common creature associated with Satanism.

The third puppet used was the young version of Mr Punch himself. Punch had rosy cheeks, bold features and a high squeaky voice. He was used to distinguish Mr Punch's child-like mannerisms of which made him appear ignorant. His high voice and rosy cheeks were very much alike a child's, especially the way he made silly jokes and did not take anything seriously. This made the audience feel frustrated as it was hard to properly engage in a conversation with Punch without any interruption from an annoying habit or silly joke. The way Punch behaved made the audience feel almost sorry for Mr Punch himself as it highlighted  how Mr Punch was still trapped in adolescence. The small puppet of Punch was very funny and his energy and animation was shown by excessive movement and loud dialect. The puppeteers expressed Punch's emotions and feelings using dynamics and body language. When he was excited or telling the punch line of a joke he spoke very loudly and ran around a lot like a hyper child which was very funny. However, when admitting to the abuse of his family for example, he spoke in mumbles, became very enclosed and covered his ears as if trying to shield himself from the shame, this was very sad, and seemed to strip away the humorousness of the situation. The puppet of Punch created moods of sorrow, humour, stupidity and frustration. The puppeteers use of voice and movement seemed to be the most effective skills used to portray him.

Overall, the puppeteers created moods of humour, sadness, familiarity, discomfort, fear, sorrow, stupidity and frustration using the Policeman, the Devil and the young version of Mr Punch. Each character represented different moods of which helped better invest the audience into the performance and also make it more interesting.