The Punch and Judy show is a long tradition that dates back 350 years in England and an even longer pedigree in Italy going back into ancient times. The slapstick humour of Punch is innate to human nature and is evident in all cultures throughout history.

Puppet Palace can present workshops that deal with the history and tradition of the Punch and Judy show. These can be delivered to children over 5 years old, older students or adults

In these workshops we give a talk on the history of the show, which includes:

  • The origins of the show in the Italian Commedia Dell'Arte performances that traveled throughout Europe in the 16th century.
  • The characters of these shows developed into the Pantomime theatre and travelling puppet shows that were the beginnings of Punch and Judy.
  • Punch has his equivalent in many countries throughout Europe and even puppets that are very similar in the Middle East.
  • In 1662 there appeared a Punchinello puppet show in London. The character of Punch became enormously popular as a fairground entertainment from then until the beginning of the19th century.
  • During the 18th century the industrial revolution forced many people to migrate into the cities. In London the Punchinello show entertained the people on the street. The first illustrations of Punch as a street show appear in 1885 and this tradition continued into the 20th century.
  • In the 19th century trains and the introduction of holidays for workers attracted people to the seaside. Punch and Judy was a popular attraction at every seaside resort.

We also discuss the various characters that appear in the show and the nature of slapstick humour.

Each character represents an aspect of society and various personality types. These characters are instantly recognisable and have been with us since the beginning of civilisation - even today you will see them in television comedies and cartoons.

Slapstick is a visual humour with the added sound effect of the stick, which has two thin pieces of wood that slap together. It is perfectly suitable for glove puppets as each of the puppeteers hands can work in a coordinated fashion to create a lively comic effect.

Children's visual responses to a Punch and Judy show


The workshops take 45 minutes for adults and 30 minutes for children.

For children it is best to organise a show followed by a talk, which together will make a 50 minute long session.

After the show we show children the puppets and explain the different characters each one represents.

We briefly go over the history of Punch, which also deals with the social effects of the industrial revolution and the invention of railways that enabled people to go to the seaside for holidays.

After this students are encouraged to ask questions.

We can also offer teachers a number of learning activities that students can do in response to what they have experienced.

It is good if you can have a data projector or smart board avaliable as we have many images to show in relation to our talk.