A London Story

Covent Garden Tale of the Punch & Judy Show


A one-liner delights spectators as Cellini performs in front of Barclays Bank in the City of London, 1984

The straight-up punk, pale, thin, and dressed in black, lounged in front of his Punch & Judy red-and-white striped booth parked in front of St. Paul's
Church in Covent Garden.

His dyed auburn locks stood erect like porcupine bristles. We watched how patient the puppeteer acted with the mentally-challenged bag lady as well as the kids, who pestered him nonstop. They all ignored the chalkboard sign with a kooky paper clock marking the time when the next show began.

   Using a swazzle so his voice sounded like he spoke through a kazoo, he repeatedly shouted, "That's the way to do it!" until all the kids sat down in front of the booth. Then he disappeared behind it. Punch and Judy appeared, squabbling with each other. Both puppets looked like evil crones with apple-red cheeks, the plumper Judy in blonde curls and white cap while Punch sported a jester's cap and white ruffle collar.

   "You hold 'im!" Judy cried, and gave Punch the bay she had held.

   Punch threw the baby back to Judy. "No! I don't want it!"

   Judy forced the baby back into Punch's arms. "You have to babysit the baby while I go shopping!" She threatened Punch and pulled

his ears. Turning to the kids in the audience, she yelled, "I want all you kids to scream if Punch mistreats the baby!" Then she left, shaking a fist

at Punch.

   Punch sat on the baby, who let out a huge squeak. The kids screamed. The baby started crying. Flustered, Punch shook the baby. It cried harder, so he threw the baby into the air where it spun around and around before it dropped below the stage.

   Judy popped up, slapstick in hand, and was about to give Punch a great WHACK when the bag lady in the audience jumped to her feet.

   Incensed, she shrieked, "Joo-day! Joo-day! Get 'im! Get Mr. Punch!"

   Excited, all the kids jumped up screaming, "Joo-day! Joo-day! Joo-day! Get 'im! Get 'im!"

   The violence and the bedlam was so astounding and hilarious we couldn't stop laughing. Judy pummeled the crap out of Punch as the kids and the bag lady continued to scream. The busker hidden behind the booth beat wooden clackers to accompany the rain of blows on Punch, the thwacks resounding across the piazza.