Punch & Judy

Weymouth, UK | C.2005

Photo Credit: Aric S. Queen

In the seaside town of Weymouth, beachgoers may come across an age-old show not found in the traditional theater. Professor Mark Poulton’s Punch & Judy Show, a booth that hosts a puppet show dating back to the 17th century.

This isn’t the first to entertain the residents of Weymouth, though as Seaside P&J shows started around the mid-19th century and have continuously run, with the exception of the World War years, on Weymouth’s shore. Poulton first encountered the entertainment in 1987 when he witnessed Professor Guy Higgin’s show at the age of 15.

Classified as a busking show, where the entertainer earns their wages from money provided by the audience, P&J shows have been conducted by a long list of “Professors”. Despite their academic title, there really isn’t a known reason why these performers are called professors. Often called Punchmen or a Punch and Judy man, the showmen have gone by many names over the centuries.

Based on a popular 17th-century Italian puppet named Pulcinella, the English Punch and Judy show features a “Mr. Punch” and his wife, Judy. Originally the show used marionettes, but due to high costs, started incorporating hand puppets in small portable booths. The popular P&J show made its way to the English seaside during the Victorian Era when railroads allowed for easier travel and access to beaches.

For Professor Mark Poulton, Punch and Judy are forever entwined with the beaches of Weymouth. Since following his dream of becoming a P&J man, Poulton has entertained children and families all over England and continues to do so to this day.

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