I’m often asked how I started in this wonderful job of being a children’s entertainer /puppeteer. It was almost over before it began. But let me share with you my very first paid gig as a London Children’s entertainer.
Eighteen years ago:
I was fresh to the business. I had secured my first gig in a very posh bit of Clapham for a party for two year olds. ( Now the red light should have been flashing right about now, but … sigh, I was new and green) The client had requested a Punch and Judy show, ( alarm bells were ringing but I was deaf to their cacophony). I had just made my very first set of Punch and Judy figures, had bought my swazzle so I could do that distinctive Mr Punch voice so I was really keen to have a real audience to play to. I was keen, too keen. I drew up some lovely pictures of Mr Punch and Judy and photocopied them for colouring in sheets after the show, oh, I thought I had it all covered.
How wrong can a woman be?
In my excitement and enthusiasm and naivety I had forgotten a basic thing. I had forgotten to think about my clients. No, not the client who had booked me, for I clearly was fulfilling all of her requests and more by doing what she had requested, but my REAL clients – the children I was going to be performing for. I had forgotten to think about the fact that this party was for a child who was turning two. So the majority of the audience were still in nappies, they were mere babies really.
You can tell this is going to end in tears, can’t you?
Well I got there nice and early. It was a beautiful and grand house in the very nicest part of Clapham. I have to admit that back then I was more than a little bit in awe. ( Nothing much phases me now). I set up my brand new puppet theatre, it looked the business, really fresh and bright and visually exciting.
Now I have to admit to my shame that I did a terrible thing. As part of my props I had brought along a filled water pistol. And a really big crocodile.
Well it was all part of the slapstick fun wasn’t it? Surely that was the way to do it?
This next part is hard to write.
I snapped the crocodile at the children then squirted water at them. Mr Punch beat the bejeezus out of Judy and the crocodile ate the baby. All good family fun huh?
I hang my head in shame and laugh at the me that was me back then.
Of course all of the children cried. Oh how they cried. Even my colouring in sheets didn’t help ( as if!).
The miracle of the day was that I got paid. Not much, you understand, but I still got paid.
I went home and cried like a baby. I cried more than all those two year old’s put together. Oh the tears of a clown.
Then when I finished crying I pulled up my soggy socks and decided that I would never make a child cry again.
I sat down with a pen and paper and the from out of the ashes of that first disastrous show my most popular show was born.
The BOBBY BUNNY SHOW.
Based on the idea that all children love to jump up and down, Bobby Bunny was a mischievous rabbit who liked to hop. My show was interactive, fun and above all not scary. High energy with a healthy dollop of naughtiness to keep the giggles coming, it hit the spot. I previewed it at play groups to great feedback.
So it was almost worth terrifying those two year olds. I hope I did no lasting damage to their psyche’s. Those two year old’s will be about 20 years old now.
Gosh, now I feel old.
Older but infinitely wiser and much better at my job.
So do I still perform Punch and Judy?
No . Turns out Punch and Judy was never meant for children anyhow.
It was meant as satire for adults ( before the days of television and Rory Bremer, you understand) . Ah! Now the penny drops. Now we understand the wife-beating and the hanging of Mr Punch by the devil and the Beadle. Because they were puppet characters, adults these days always assume that they are just for children.
No, my puppets are for children. No more Mr Punch for me.
I learned that the hard way.
As for me, like my puppet booth, I have a few cracks and scars, I may not now be as fresh or as pretty as when I started but this London Children’s entertainer now does a damn good job. But don’t take my word for it, have a look at my reviews for yourself.
- Punch and Judy act toned down after warnings (telegraph.co.uk)