Heatwave sparks Punch and Judy revival after abuse at shows

THE recent heatwaves have sparked a resurgence of Punch and Judy after verbal abuse threatened to shut down the shows for good.

Puppetry dates back to 16th-century Italy but gained popularity in British seaside resorts.

Brighton professional Punch and Judy performer Joe Burns said the seaside institution was under threat with few full-time shows left and performers facing verbal abuse.

The 30-year-old, who started when he was 12, is currently performing one of just three remaining full-time daily Punch and Judy shows on Swanage Beach in Dorset.

He said warm weather has revived the dying art and he’s had a “record year” in which he broke his previous record of 22 consecutive days of performances.

“Because of the nice weather, I’ve performed every day so far this season,” he said. “I’ve only been here for two months so I have to make hay while the sun is out and I’ve managed to do that for over 30 days.

“I’m not complaining though, I can rest in September. It is only possible to do what I do with the support of the amazing beach team, other concessionaires and my incredible audience.”

The Argus: Brighton based professional Punch and Judy performer Joe BurnsProfessional Punch and Judy performer Joe Burns from Brighton

The owners of the traditional puppet shows spoke out about threats and abuse from clients last year when they were asked to pay just £2 to see them.

Joe said last year several people told his show collector to fuck off, but this time he didn’t experience the same level of abuse from non-payers.

“It’s been a brilliantly enjoyable year. There’s always a chance people won’t want to pay, but by and large tourists have been honest and generous all season,” he said.

“People are so excited to see the show on the beach that it’s rare to turn up and find a show these days.”

Joe said the hot weather has been a blessing, but not without its challenges.

He added: “There are challenges of working in the heat for me within the show and the audience sitting in the sun watching.

“In order to be able to work safely in the heat, I compressed the show at certain points so that nobody was left out. And there’s always the sea to jump into if it’s too hot.

“Punch belongs at the beach – that’s where I first saw Punch and Judy, and performing every summer is an opportunity to inspire the next generation.

“I may be the youngest beach punch professor, but I have no doubts that I won’t be the last.”

The Argus: Punch and Judy ShowPunch and Judy show

Joe lives in Brighton but camps out in Swanage to put on 125 shows over the summer holiday season, which has had a Punch and Judy since 1904.

“Mr Punch is our national puppet character and his ever-evolving show is part of our heritage. He’s a folk hero who stands against authority and crocodiles,” he said.

“Punch and Judy have always attracted audiences and have gone where audiences want to see their slapstick antics.”

He is joined by Mark Poulton of Weymouth, Dorset and Jason Codman of Llandudno, Wales as the last three full-time beach performers. Heatwave sparks Punch and Judy revival after abuse at shows

Fry Electronics Team

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