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On Sunday we went to a performance of Shakespeare’s Midsummer nights Dream. One of the multitudes of free Shakespeare Festivals that spring up every summer, this one had a pre-show festival of sorts geared to families – face painting and aPunch and Judyshow.

As is often the case at free Shakespeare performance, the crowd was largely made up of older couples with a few younger childless couples thrown in for good measure. Due to perhaps, the pre-show activities though, there was a fairly large contingent of families with young elementary and preschooler aged children.

While my 6-year-old and I areavid attendeesof Shakespeare’s plays, this time it was the Punch and Judy show that caught our attention. A type of puppet show dating back to 16thcentury, they started inEnglandbut spread all over Europe and eventually toAmerica.

The tale of Punch and Judy typically involves Punch behaving outrageously, struggling with his wife Judy and the Baby, and then triumphing in a series of encounters with the forces of law and order. All is performed in the spirit of outrageous comedy and is intended to provoke shocked laughter. Whilst the Victorian version of the show drew on the morality of its day, the 20th and 21st Century versions of the tale have evolved into something more akin to a primitive version ofThe Simpsonsin which a bizarre family is used as vehicle for grotesque visual comedy and a sideways look at contemporary society.

What stuck with my son is the fact that is billed as the precursor to cartoons. What impressed me was the audience participation which we were explicitly told to provide prior to the show.

“He’s behind you!” We shouted.

“You’re naughty, Punch,” we yelled.

There obviously has been something lost in transition to the screen where children sit zombie-like watching Road Runner clobber the coyote.

Returning home, my son rushed to make his own Punch and Judy theatre, which in our typical fashion was made using whatever we had lying around in our playroom.

We started with a large moving box, open on top. We cut a door in the back for easy entry and placed on top, a smaller box, opened on the bottom. We could perhaps have used just one box but we didn’t have one tall enough!

In the top box we cut a hole on one side for the puppets, and then taped the two boxes together. Rather than paint our theatre, we used large swaths of fabric which we I buy in bulk whenever there’s a sale at the fabric store, and stapled them around the sides and top. Two pieces of red fabric quickly turned into curtains on my $35.00 sewing machine (I do love it) were strung on a tomato stake poked through the cardboard about 1 inch above the opening for the puppets.

A piece of foam with the words, “Punch and Judy Show” and we were done. Rather than make our own Punch and Judy Characters we simply pulled out a selection of stuffed animals and assigned them parts.

As you can tell by the pictures, it’s a wee bit lopsided and perhaps not particularly attractive, but we love it and it has, already been the stage for a variety of plays.

The nice things about our creation is, when we tire of it, all of the parts, boxes, fabric, tomato stakes and foam piece (wiped clean) go back in pile of materials for the next activity.

We take the “Reuse” part of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle seriously around here.

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