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Punch and Judy square off with Simon Cowell in British reboot

August 21, 2012|By Chris Barton
  • Visitors to Weymouth beach in Britain watch a 'Punch and Judy' performance.
Visitors to Weymouth beach in Britain watch a 'Punch and Judy'… (Matt Cardy / Getty Images )

In a move consistent with an entertainment climate thoroughly stocked with sequels and revivals, the venerable wooden puppets with roots in Italian commedia dell'arte are getting a new lease on life with "Punch and Judy Rebooted," a new performance in celebration of the duo's 350th anniversary.

A classic of puppet theater that's said to have been performed in Britain since 1662, Punch and Judy are such a part of the pop culture fabric that someone can be familiar with their names without knowing what exactly they're referencing.

Produced by the U.K. comedy channel Gold and written by sitcom veterans Gary Lawson and John Phelps, the bickering duo have been given an update in which their trademark over-the-top violence has been under-emphasized in favor of more contemporary touches.

Punch is a tracksuit-wearing layabout and Judy is a soccer groupie mired in credit card debt, and their rivals include depictions of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as the devil and "American Idol" veteran Simon Cowell as the judge.

“We thought we’d try to bring it up to date by putting satire into it rather than knockabout humour," Lawson told the London Evening Standard. "The violence is now more like Tom and Jerry."

The show debuted last week at London's Covent Garden and is set to move on to tour British coastal resorts.

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