HISTORY OF MR PUNCH
• Mr Punch's earliest roots date back to the wandering Commedia dell' Arte troupes of 14th century Italy, when Pulcinella, a hook-nosed, cowardly buffoon, was a popular character in comic plays. • During succeeding centuries, Commedia plays spread to France and then Engia nd. There Pulcinella merged with British glove puppet traditions to became Punchinello, or Mr Punch. Punch acquired a wife, originally called Joan, and by the end of the late 17th century, the Punch and Judy show was firmly ensconced in the annals of tradition. • In May 1662, at London's Covent Garden, diarist Samuel Pepys watched a Punch and Judy show performed by Signer Bologna. Pepys described it as "an Italian puppet play, that is within the rails there, which is very pretty, the best that I ever saw, and great resort of gallants". This is considered to be the first written record of a Punch and Judy show and a plaque in Covent Garden commemorates the event. • In the mid-1800s, when Prof Codman started his work, the Punch and Judy show entered its Golden Age.
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By HUGO DUNCAN
THEY are arguably .the most famous traditional puppets in the Western world.
For generations, children and grown-ups have revelled in the antics of Punch and Judy.
The seaside show even inspired the term "slapstick".
And writer Charles Dickens branded it "one of those extravagant reliefs from the realities of life... a quite harmless and an outrageous joke".
But after nearly 150 years of performing in North Wales, Codman's Victorian Punch and Judy Theatre was forced to defend its act.
A member of the Llandudno audience, who complained the show's hanging scene was too long and upset watching children, stormed: "That's not the way to do it."
Cathy Georgeson, a voluntary youth worker from Liverpool, told Radio Wales' news programme Good Morning Wales the macabre scene was "quite an extreme form of violence".
And it is not the first time the Punch and Judy shows have provoked criticism - in 1947 Middlesex County Council deemed the show unsuitable for schoolchildren.
But yesterday, as laughing kids gathered round the striped booth next to the town's pier where Morris Millband-Codman performed, his wife Jackie insisted Punch and Judy was here to stay.
The great granddaughter of founder "Professor" Richard Codman, she told the Daily Post: "The show is full of fun and everyone really enjoys it because it is so good.
"I think we have had three complaints in the last 25 years. But it is because they do not know the Punch and Judy story, how the characters came about and what they represent.

"Our Show dates back to Victorian times and there are constant references to Victorian life."
The husband and wife team are the fourth generation of Codmans to perform in Llandudno.
When Prof Codman set up in the town in 1860, his was one of the earliest Punch and Judy shows.
And the original puppets - which were seen by Queen Victoria - are still used today. "I always tell geople the puppets have looked at Queen Victoria. They have been in pretty good; company over the years," said Mrs Millband-Codman.
The puppets were crafted from driftwood collected by Prof Codman on Llandudno beach in the 1860s.
The only original puppet not used today is the crocodile.
Mrs Millband-Codman, who takes contributions from the audience while her husband performs, said: "I don't want the crocodile to get damaged, so we don't use the original any more."
Mr Millband-Codman, 62, married into the Codman family and took over the show when his father-in-law. Jack Codman, died.
He said: "It has been passed down from father to son, father to son. But then there were two daughters and I married Jackie and got the job.
"And now my son is involved in the show as well."
Mr Millband-Codman defended the violent nature of the traditional Punch and Judy.
He said; "We throw the baby out the window,
Punch batters Judy around the head with a stick, and then she does it back. And then you have the hanging scene.
"But most people love it and the kids cry out for more. People agree it is part of history, with

all these puppets making references back to Vte torian times and Queen Victoria herself.
"We even offer schools the option of whether we do the hanging, but they always say yes. And the same schools come back year after year.
"But it is not just kids who come to watch The other day there were no kids here so I wasn't going to do the show. "But I nearly got lynched - the benches were full of visitors, adults and OAPs. They keep on coming because they love it."'.
Professor Codman passed on the tradition to son Herbert Codman - Mrs Millband-Codman's grandfather - who carried on until his death in 1909, aged 78, when his son Jack took over.
Harmless fun or horror influence? Let us know what you think - write or e-mail to the addresses on page 2.


Cutting from Liverpool Daily Post (Wales Edition), Page 3 on July 4th 2003
hugoduncan@dailypost.co.uk


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