Punch at Bath

 Robert Powel with Punch & Joan (later to become Judy)
Puppet Shows became very popular in England at the beginning of the eighteenth century, particularly those produced by Robert Powel, whose performances were not restricted to London, but toured England during the season. A description of a show at Bath, which rivalled a production of Alexander The Great, performed by a troupe of wandering actors, occurs in The Tatler on 15th May 1709:
To insure due attention to the wooden actors, the puppet-drummer, Adam and Eve, and several others who lived before the flood, passed through the streets on horseback, to invite us all to the pastime, and the representation of such things as we all knew to be true; and Mr Mayor was so wise as to prefer these innocent people, the puppets, who, he said, were to represent Christians, before the wicked players, who were to shew Alexander, a heathen philosopher. At ten in the morning, all the fashionables of Bath honoured the show, which seems to have been constructed on the principles of the old religious Mysteries and Moralities, with all their absurdities mixed with modern incongruities. Thus, when we came to Noah’s Flood in the show, Punch and his wife were introduced dancing in the Ark.
An honest plain friend of Florimel’s, but a critic withal, rose up in the midst of the representation, and made very many good exceptions to the drama itself, and told us it was against all morality, as well as the rules of the stage, that Punch should be in jest in the deluge, or indeed that he should appear at all. This was certainly a just remark, and I thought to second him, but he was hissed by Prudentia’s party; upon which, really, we, who were his friends, hissed him too. Old Mrs Petulant desired both her daughters to mind the moral: then whispered Mrs Mayoress: ‘This is very proper for young people to see.’ Punch, at the end of the play, made Madam Prudentia a compliment, and was very civil to the whole company, making bows till his buttons touched the ground.
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