If a panto and a Sarah Kane play had an unimaginably grotesque love-child it would look a lot like this. The sheer effluence of unimaginably foul language and degenerate deeds that affront the stunned audience from the outset of
Punch and Judy shows have always trod the line between the comic and the terrifying, a relic of a bygone era when domestic abuse could be mounted as a hilarious diversion for children
Despite it’s filthy content, this performance is not without substance: writer and lead performer Brent Thorpe relocates the action to modern-day Australia (‘our land down under’) and the sordid skits that play out as a Mr Punch (clad in a stained wife-beater) embarks on his customary killing spree act as a kind of distorted mirror on Australian social issues, as Mr Punch proclaims his actions to be ‘the universal right of every white male’. The company, drawing on the cabaret tradition of the Sydney LGBTQ+ scene, take square aim at the culture of toxic masculinity within Australia.
Punch and Judy shows have always trod the line between the comic and the terrifying, a relic of a bygone era when domestic abuse could be mounted as a hilarious diversion for children. It is that sense of the retro- of a country clinging destructively to damaging old models- that gives the show it’s real punch. The back and forth nature of the violence, blowing thrown back and forth like a tennis match, proves a strong metaphor for the cyclical violence inherent in these outmoded, patriarchal systems.
There are scattered treats throughout. A version of a Rolf Harris song entitled “Tie your balls to the ground” is a late highlight, and Les Amussen gives a brilliantly slurred rendition of Divinyls “I Touch Myself”. Unfortunately, the anarchic energy and shock value which carries the first scenes cannot sustain through the whole show- there are only so many euphemisms for ballsacks, after all. Disappointingly, the show becomes fairly thin as it rattles to a close. The cast rarely excelled (with the exception of Amussen) and Jimmi Mercieca struggled with the demands of performing various different caricatures.
Worth seeing nevertheless. But don't take your grandma.