It’s been a weekend of high sporting drama and noticeably less rain, but for drama of a smaller, more traditional scale, here’s a bit of old-school street theatre to start the week…
Punch and Judy is unarguably formulaic and predictable – Punch will beat his wife Judy with a stick, an alligator will make a cameo appearance, a policeman will be tricked and a comedic string of sausages will be a key prop throughout. A new variation on the tale with new cast and a much less violent, much more uplifting ending has emerged and involves a dedicated Punch and Judy Professor, his puppets, bag thieves, kind strangers and a lost property office worker who doesn’t like being kissed.
Konrad Fredericks had finished a performance with his family of Punch and Judy puppets in St John’s Centre in Isleworth and was waiting at the Isleworth train station just before 3pm. In the few seconds he had his back turned to his bag full of puppets, bag thieves swooped in and stole it – and Fredericks’ heart broke into a thousand little pieces. ‘…Not only is it my livelihood but 34 years of history, and these dolls are like family members to me. They had just disappeared,’ he said. He has performed with these dolls around the world and when they went missing, this Professor described his grief as the worst 24 hours of his life.
However, the happy ending was not far away: when he returned to Isleworth with leaflets offering a £500 reward for the safe return of his puppets, South West Trains called him to report his stolen bag had been returned. It seemed that the thieves had discovered their stolen goods were nothing but a heap of dolls; we can imagine their hurry to abandon the lot, it must have been a rather creepy shock to the system to plunge one’s hand into a bag hoping for expensive electronic gagdets and a bulging wallet, only to draw out a staring, gurning Punch doll with beating stick. All those late 1980s Puppetmaster movies had some merit, it seems. A kind stranger had found the abandoned bag and thoughtfully handed it in to the lost property office, which then contacted Fredericks with the good news. Our tale ends with the Professor happily reunited with his Punch and Judy dolls, trying to find outlets for his joy. ‘I told the lost property guy at Waterloo that I felt like giving him a kiss, but I don’t think he thought it was a good idea.’ And then they all lived happily ever after, the end.