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Brighton Fringe 2007

The Confessions of Punch and Judy


Venue: Nightingale Theatre



What is domestic life really like chez Punch and Judy? According to Canadian company NACL it’s a riot of bible stories, Greek myths, unhealthy codependency and Vaudeville cross-talk.

We soon realize that our eponymous protagonists could just as easily been called Adam and Eve or Kevin and Tracy, for this is a beautifully executed meditation on the battle of the sexes. The performer/devisers Tannis Kowalchuk and Ker Wells have performed this piece throughout America and Canada and not a word or gesture is wasted. The Prodigal Theatre is to be applauded for finding this show and bringing it over; amid the abundant raw talent to be found in the Brighton Fringe it’s a real treat to come across this piece of modest excellence.

A perfect primary-coloured set and imaginative use of music, costume and props add up to a lot more than you could reasonably expect from a two-hander. Both performers have to sing, dance and perform slapstick as well as deliver their subtly nuanced relationship. The characters are trapped in a never-ending charade of rows and rapprochements, neither of them happy, neither of them able to leave the other. This is common enough subject matter, but rarely handled with such lightness of touch.

Punch and Judy describe their show in song as a “Sweet tale of love, blow by blow” It is also a breath of fresh air and a slap in the face. That’s the way to do it.