In a visceral and dynamic live-action reinterpretation of the famous 17th century puppet show, writer / director Mirrah Foulkes turns the traditional story of Punch and Judy on its head and brings to life a fierce, darkly comic and epic female-driven revenge story.
It’s the mid-17th century in the tiny town called Seaside (incidentally, nowhere near the sea). Worn out and ruined by poverty and neglect, the lives of Seaside’s town folk have spiralled into violence, mob rule and God-fearing hysteria. Amongst the chaos, one glimmer of artistry remains: Punch and Judy’s marionette puppet theatre.
While the townspeople revel in the drama and brutality of trials and executions, the charismatic Punch (Damon Herriman) and his prodigiously talented puppeteering wife Judy (Mia Wasikowska), endeavour to use their show to escape with their new baby to loftier means – a sentiment that is pushed by Punch and accepted by Judy.
Judy is clearly the superior puppeteer and possesses the skill and dexterity of a great artist, but it is Punch who owns the limelight. A loveable narcissist with a dangerous penchant for the bottle, his ambition and egomania are the antithesis of Judy’s gentle, practical nature.
Punch and Judy’s first marionette show back from a hiatus is a triumph but Punch, spurred on by the show’s success and the brutal celebration of witch stoning day, succumbs to Seaside’s temptations and the local McDrinky’s tavern. Fuelled by ale and adulation, he is caught out by Judy in the tavern, heavily drinking and in the company of apparent mistress, Polly (Lucy Velik).
The next day, a slapstick chain of events comes to a tragic end while Punch continues his drinking binge. Hell bent on vengeance and retribution, darkness descends over Judy, who must right the wrongs of Punch and the entire town of Seaside in an act of vengeance befitting her true nature.
“Judy & Punch is a dark, absurd fable treading a line between fairy-tale, fantasy and gritty realism, all of which work together to establish a unique tone while upsetting viewer expectations,” says writer / director Mirrah Foulkes.
“When Vice Studios’ Eddy Moretti and Danny Gabai approached me with the idea of making a live action, feminist revenge film about Punch and Judy, they encouraged me to let my imagination go wild and take the story wherever I felt it needed to go. It was a rare opportunity to write freely without a prescriptive sense of where the narrative might eventually lead.”
“The great challenge lay in taking an iconic but loose and messy historical story based on stock characters and giving it a muscular structure that worked as a feature film,” added Foulkes.
Image: Damon Herriman and Mia Wasikowska star in Judy & Punch (film still) – courtesy of Madman Entertainment ©