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Judy & Punch review - a bold but blunt tale | reviews, news & interviews

Judy & Punch review - a bold but blunt tale

Judy & Punch review - a bold but blunt tale

A revisionist take on the seaside puppet show

Mia Wasikowska and Damon Herriman as Judy & Punch

Professor Punch (Damon Herriman) was once famed throughout the lands as a masterful puppeteer, performing shows night after night with his dutiful wife Judy (Mia Wasikowska). Now, they have been relegated to the provinces. Specifically, the backwash of Seaside, Judy’s hometown far from the coast (as the prologue informs us), where they are raising their baby. They live amidst the daily stoning of presumed witches, and the paranoid grumblings of the small-minded citizenry.

As odd couples go, they couldn’t be less well-suited. Punch is a philandering alcoholic with a short-fused temper. Judy on the other hand is the epitome of the milk of human kindness. The clash is inevitable and familiar, but director Mirrah Foulkes offers up a few surprises in this puppetry adaptation that audiences will find less familiar.

There’s an overt magical-realist spin on this macabre fairytale. It’s reminiscent of Angela Carter with the stylist flare of Terry Gilliam and Jean Pierre Jeunet. Foulkes gives the tale an inventive, bold, feminist approach. Like Carter, Foulkes shows that put-upon, long-suffering women don’t have to be weak and that, behind forced smiles, sharp teeth can hide ready to bite any lurking ne’re-do-wells.Judy & PunchUnlike Carter, here the drama is tonally off. Foulkes doesn’t strike the balance between comedy and tragedy, and there’s little subtlety with regards to her agenda. By the and in the final act, the world Foulkes has carefully crafted, becomes wearisome and comes tumbling down and it shifts into a predictable revenge fantasy.

Characters in fairytales are little more than puppets - they have no inner depth, no hidden psychologies - their thoughts exist in action. At their best, fairytales are stories that subtly allow us to glimpse their wisdom side on, allowing our subconscious to do the heavy lifting. But here the narrative’s aim is too well-defined. The dialogue must do the heavy lifting instead, and Foulkes’s message rings out like it’s being delivered by Seaside’s town cryer.

Judy and Punch is a story about breaking down traditional boundaries and addressing who holds power and why. In the end, when Wasikowska offers up her soliloquy about the long-suffering of women at the hands of brutal men, everything she says is true, but the impact is lost. Foulkes shows skill and chutzpah in her vision, but the execution is bold rather than successful. 


Foulkes doesn’t strike the balance between comedy and tragedy, and there’s little subtlety with regards to her agenda


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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