Shouters, Chargers & the Life of Punch

Last Sunday, the Professor performed two shows of “The Terrible Story of Mr Punch” at Orange Regional Gallery.

The booth looked both spooky and elegant set up in one of the galleries that featured the work of the artist David Fairburn. From certain angles, it looked as though the portraits were watching the show as well.

I didn’t have to do much in the way of ‘bottling’ in Orange. The gallery handled all the front of house so I actually had a chance to take a few photos.

It felt very relaxed and the Professor came out and chatted to the early arrivals which included quite a few dads with their sons. Audiences are different from one town to the next and it’s always interesting to watch their responses. It’s often the little girls who are the loudest, particularly four to six-year-olds. I’m usually too busy watching the kids to take pictures – or if I do manage a few, they’re often blurry as the kids are often wriggling and shouting. I’ve taken to sitting down the front at most shows in case a very excited child leaps up and charges the booth. There was only one ‘charger’ at the Orange show but in Nowra, two little five year old girls were so keen to make Mr Punch take notice of their shouted instruction that they made a dash for the booth and started jumping up and down. Parents are often so surprised to see their little princesses shouting with excitement and lecturing a puppet that they don’t quite know what to do. I quietly usher the kids back to their seats, agreeing with them that Mr Punch is very naughty and that if they wait until the end of the show, they can have a one-to-one chat and tell him off. They’re always very obliging.

In Nowra, Lauren, the little girl in the blue t-shirt on the right, was one of the loudest kids at any of the Punch shows so far. She had a fantastic, shrill whistle and she was determined that Mr Punch was going to hear her and take her advice. “Behind you! Behind you! I told you there was a crocodile behind you!” She led a charge of several small kids on the booth. Just after I took the photo of the girls I had to make a dash down the front to lure them back to their seats. I don’t think Lauren’s dad had ever seen his daughter in a full blown argument with a puppet.

Tomorrow Mr Punch will be up to his usual tricks at the Pipe Band Hall at Victoria Park in Darling Street.

The shows in Nowra and Orange were terrific with lovely audiences but I’m a little nervous about tomorrow’s shows. Dubbo has been a tricky town to get to know. That might be because I’ve spent the last three days in outlying areas, giving talks to kids at the shire libraries and running a writing class with secondary students at Gulgong High School. Every town has its own personality that impacts on the mood of the audiences. The Professor did a radio interview this morning and Duboo is plastered with posters of Punch and Judy. Fingers crossed, a good range of Dubbo shouters and chargers, mums, dads, grannies and totally feral toddlers will turn up at the Pipe Band Hall tomorrow morning.

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Every adult was once a child and the child inside them never disappears.”

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