Archive for November, 2011
Anyone who knows me and Diane’s Puppets over the years, will know that for over ten years I was more than ably assisted by my dear friend ‘Aunty Lena’. We made a formidable team, being best friends gave us a natural rapport and an understanding that didn’t need much communication to work. We simply knew what each other was thinking.
Lena would also assist me with the face painting during the tea time.
When I first approached Lena about working with me, she said ” I’ll do anything but I won’t be able to face paint”. Oh woman of little faith. You turned out to be a face painter of much merit, able to turn out fast and delicate faces with a deft touch and always with a silly sense of humour and a gentle manner.
The picture speaks for itself, never easy to face paint a one year old, but here is a very happy little baby with sweet flowers.
So, Aunty Lena was able to tackle most challenges in the face painting department, including rising to tractors and even racing cars. Not bad for someone who claimed not to have any artistic merit.
However, there was one memorable exception: the notorious, hysterical case of the rocket.
Picture the scene, a busy party, lots of mums are standing around chatting while the rest of the children are eating their tea. A sweet four year old girl sits down in front of you, eyes wide and excited, looking forward to being face painted. After asking what she wants, you start to paint a rocket. It’s not looking quite right so you ask the other person to help you. That other person was me.
I looked over at sweet four year old to see her with a white rocket shaped object , but with a red triangular tip on her cheek. Child is blissfully unaware of the two ladies in front of her starting to giggle.
I realised the rocket was missing engines.
Paint some engines on, I suggested. That should do it.
Both of us realised what we had done was inadvertently ended up painting a rather gruesome phallic looking thing on this very sweet and innocent girls face.
That’s when the giggles started to take over. Aunty Lena couldn’t speak for laughter, tears were streaming down her face as she realised how inappropriate this face paint had become. Quite innocently of course, but there it was, a four year old girl with a very rude looking face paint.
I hastily reached for baby wipes and started over, tears running down my face.
We both hoped none of the yummy mummies had witnessed our fiasco.
Aunty Lena avoided rockets from then on. I tackle ( no pun intended fnar fnar) them carefully to avoid repeating any similar situations.
I mean what was that little girl thinking asking for a rocket anyway ? What’s wrong with a fairy?
( As a very dedicated feminist , that last statement is not to be taken seriously )
Aunty Lena now works in Morley Gallery but remains my loyal and lovely and very delightfully silly friend.
Ah those were the days.
Here at Diane’s Puppets, I’m taking bookings for Christmas parties for the home, corporate parties and nurseries.
I have a wonderful Christmas puppet show that is very festive but not religious, making it ideal for celebrating the Festive Season in our multicultural and multi-faith London .
I’ve taken my most popular characters Fifi the Fairy and Bobby Bunny and his friend Tabitha the Cat and they come together for one month of the year to tell a charming tale of the night before Christmas.
Expect chases and high action, peep-bo’s and sing songs with popular Christmas songs like Jingle Bells, Christmas trees and decorations and jolly good fun. Oh and there may be a visit from a puppet with a white beard, a big round belly and his red nosed friend.
This is a perfect show for all ages up to around 8 years old bringing the Christmas Spirit in stocking loads, all performed in an old fashioned Punch and Judy style booth.
So if you fancy a festive puppet treat, hurry and book me now! Spaces are going fast.
The Christmas Booth show costs £140 for an hours performance including a puppet introduction. Festive face painting is an optional extra.
My first experience of puppets was on Skegness beach.
Here I am, dolly cradled in my arm while I was transfixed by the antics of Mr Punch.
I couldn’t understand his strange squeaky voice and I never really understood the story but I was drawn in to this weird world with its shouting and slapsticks and cries of THAT’S THE WAY TO DO IT!
The crocodile ate the sausages and sometimes he even ate the baby. I took it all in my stride. I was a little scared of Mr Punch and never understood why he kept hitting everyone with his big stick but the fear was part of the thrill.
That was way back in 1969, I was 5 years old and England wasn’t politically correct.
Some may say those were better days, I’m not so sure. I appreciate people being sensitive to others feelings.
I grew up to be a children’s entertainer and puppeteer, an artist and a mum of two girls and grandmother to one beautiful granddaughter who is my continuing inspiration.
I also grew up to be a feminist and understood that the Punch and Judy story may not be a mythology that is terribly healthy for children in the long term.
It took time for me to get to that position though.
When I first started out on my journey as a Children’s Entertainer I thought that doing Punch and Judy was what was expected. So I made a set of characters and very handsome they were even if I say so myself. I sent away to have a swazzle made ( the secret voice changer to make Mr Punches peculiar voice) and practiced with this strange aluminium and tape contraption sitting on my tongue. I had plenty of near misses and almost swallowed the swazzle in getting my technique sussed. Still, it remained a challenge to make Mr Punch understandable and I understood only too well why I struggled as a child to understand his strange buzzy voice.
Let’s just say I made lots of very small children cry with this very first performance. They didn’t cry because the show was terrible, it was just that I scared them. Today’s children are more sensitive than the 1969 lot! Maybe that is because in today’s world , there is a lot more to be afraid of. ( There’s a debate in there somewhere)
Punch and Judy didn’t start out as a children’s show. It was the satire of the day, the Spitting Image or Rory Bremner show of its time. This is why there is parody of domestic violence, drunkenness, child abuse and features classic characters such as the Beadle and the Hangman. In a very silly scene, Mr Punch manages to trick the hangman into putting his own head into the noose to demonstrate how it was done, and Mr Punch hangs the hangman.
The show was a morality tale , where Mr Punch is supposed to get his comeuppance in a final battle with the Devil himself. There was such public outcry when Mr Punch lost the battle to the Devil and was dragged down to hell, that the story morphed into Mr Punch finally beating the Devil and becoming the ante hero that we all know today. The morality tale became twisted .
So unless I get a specific request and lots of nagging to bring Mr Punch out again I shall stick to making children laugh rather than cry at birthday parties and puppet show events.
Mr Punch will remain in hibernation until further notice.
THAT’S THE WAY TO DO IT!
- Tears, Mr Punch and the great water pistol disaster. (kidspartyheaven.wordpress.com)
- Punch and Judy (manbehindthecurtain.ie)
- Hits & Misses – The Punch & Judy Show (castleqwayr.wordpress.com)
- Punch and Judy act toned down after warnings (telegraph.co.uk)
- Entertaining London’s Children (kidspartyheaven.wordpress.com)