WHY I PERFORM PUNCH
THE EARLY YEARS
Some people wonder why a Puppeteer that works so much in Film and Television would be interested in performing such a simple glove puppet show like “Punch & Judy”? The answer is: I absolutely adore it, and always have.
And it is the one branch of all the puppetry that I do,
that really gives back warmth to me as a performer.
The laughter and shouting of the crowd, the smiles of joy on the childrens’ faces is instantly rewarding.
The ‘Muppets’ exploded onto our television screens, when I was eleven. Here in the U.K, we had never witnessed anything remotely like it.They were a huge inspiration, both to me, and to many of the puppeteers I now work with.
But I was already addicted to puppetry long before Kermit and his gang bought us their oddball brand of mayhem.
My interest was kindled as a much younger child by Mr Punch and his fast, colourful, squeaky show.
My Grandparents lived along the coast in Broadstiars.
On the sands there Peter Buchard did a show, which was for me the highlight of our trips to Thanet.
After years of hanging around after each show, I was even allowed to see inside the booth, getting my first glimpse of all the puppets hanging upside-down on their hooks, the sausages tucked inside the Devil to stop them falling on the sand. A row of slapsticks all lined up in case one got dropped - and I thought there was only one !
I can still see it in my mind to this day.
I think it is fair to say that Peter was not always the jolliest of men - the Punch man from ‘Hi-Di-Hi’ does spring to mind !
And he never let anyone see inside the show.
Perhaps he had spotted in me a genuine Punch devotee ?
More likely he knew it was the only way to end my constant pestering!
But the Punch Show at Broadstairs was an occasional treat..the real start to my obsession was much closer to home.
Herne Bay, on the north Kent coast was where I grew up, and
in those days it boasted a splendid Punch & Judy Show
on the beach, right next to the Pier.
We lived just 2 minutes walk from the sea front.
From an upstairs window I could see when a crowd
was gathering, and could run down there before the curtain rose.
I must have seen ‘Uncle Colin’ do his show hundreds of times
I loved it . And I was absolutely hooked.
By the time I was 12, I had built my own set of paper-mache puppets and was doing local Birthday Parties and Fetes at the weekends.
This is a picture of me aged 14 at the annual Covent Garden Puppet Festival “The Mayfayre”.
I was the youngest 'Professor' there that Year.
'Professor' is the self appointed title of all Punch performers.
Not everyone uses it though ,and I prefer to just use my name.
Perhaps when I am older I might allow myself to become 'Professor Richard Coombs’ ..but right now it feels far too grown-up.
And here is picture of me at Covent Garden in 2005 , when I earned my Full Membership to the Punch and Judy Fellowship.As you can see I have filled out a bit in the intervening years .. But my love of Punch and Judy has grown along with my waistline.
Some things do improve with age, the quality of my puppets for example; I carve them in wood these days.
Everything started with Mr. Punch , and as such, I am ‘As Pleased as Punch’ to have him alongside any Film or Television credit on my professional CV.