- Based: Midlands
- Website: www.tiptoppuppets.co.uk
I have been doing Punch since the early 1980s, so that is more than thirty years! Over that time I have performed more than 200 shows every year. I am based in The Midlands of England but my show has taken me to many countries, including France, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia and Portugal. At international festivals I have appeared alongside performers from other European traditions and have developed a sense of the importance of the wider family of popular folk puppetry. At home I work in public settings and in schools.
This is how I make my living. I also present other glove puppet shows but Punch has always been at the centre of what I do. I make everything myself, although occasionally I need a hand with needlework of fine painting.
What drew me to Punch in the first place was seeing a show in my home town of Birmingham when I was in my early 20s. I had always been attracted to theatre and performance and had not long since graduated with a degree in Drama. At this moment I was working as a stilt walker near the open markets. I looked down on the show from some distance. It was not the show itself that attracted me, so much as and the way the audience gathered around and related to it. I went home and began to build my own show. I then started busking in Stratford-on-Avon, where I found out what worked and how to get money in the hat. Around that time I was also helped by other leading performers, and began to get established.
For me the show has always been about a relationship and an interaction with an audience. It is a shared experience.”
For me the show has always been about a relationship and an interaction with an audience. It is a shared experience. That audience should be as wide as possible, embracing children and adults and including people from all walks of life. Children are often the principal audience, but particularly in public settings the more general the audience the better the show. I am not a slave to tradition but I am aware that Punch’s place in the popular imagination is based on his endurance through time. Along with the sense that the show is working in the here and now, there is always a touch timeless nostalgia.
The show is passing through my hands and while it does so I have an opportunity to shape it, but it existed long before I took it up and it will continue to exist long after I have gone. As a ‘professor’ I replicate and originate, and in so doing I help to maintain and develop the show as an ongoing living tradition.
My show is robust and knockabout and resonates with a surreal and occasionally dark absurd humour that has long been part of the eccentric English mentality. It is at times outrageous and that is one of the things that make it very funny. At route all drama of any description is about misbehaving and Punch does this par excellence.