This Wednesday is the 350 anniversary of the first recorded Punch and Judy show in England.
It was witnessed on 9 May 1662 by Samuel Pepys outside St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden.
The star of the puppet show was Pulcinella and he had been brought from Naples. Pepys was an instant fan of the Italian show and he is known to have seen seven more performances. The original show was later staged before Charles II at Whitehall.
Pulcinella soon became Punch as the English added sausages to the stage props and in the 19th century a policeman to the growing cast which included the crocodile. Mr Punch’s wife Judy was once Joan.
As the 125th anniversary approached in 1985 there were discussions about Mr Punch’s treatment of Judy and the baby. Was it violence or slapstick? But today Mr Punch remains much loved.
The 150th celebrations are this weekend at St Paul’s Covent Garden.
On Saturday 12 May there is a mass gathering of Punch and Judy operators, known as ‘professors’, and guests including a promise of “Pulcinella from Naples”.
On Sunday 13 May St Paul’s Covent Garden will be keeping its annual Punch and Judy Sunday and May Fayre. Expect to see Mr Punch in church, or even in the pulpit, during the service at 12 noon. This follows immediately after the 11am parish Mass.
There will be lots of shows in the churchyard afterwards. Choral Evensong is at 4pm.