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That's the way to do it: alumnus presents Punch and Judy research on the BBC

Posted on 01/09/2010

The famous duo get down to work

Former PhD student Martin Reeve will be appearing on BBC’s The One Show tonight to talk about his research into Punch and Judy which he conducted at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Dr Reeve studied contemporary Punch and Judy in performance in the Department of Drama and Theatre. The research was carried out as a collaborative project with the Punch and Judy College of Professors, a group of highly regarded Punch performers. Little work has been done in the field since the mid eighties and this study takes into account the changes in performing practices, who is performing and the context within which performance happens.

Dr Reeve said: “My research argues that the tradition is still going strong but in ways which differ from how Punch and Judy operated at the time of the last major research, in the 1980's. It is now less to be found at the seaside and more in deliberate reconstructions and evocations of the past; in shopping centres, at festivals, in National Trust proerties, at country fairs and so on. There are considerable efforts on the part of performers to keep the tradition alive and they have set up organizations to help them do this; these organizations did not exist at the time of the last research.”

His supervisor, Dr Matthew Cohen, senior lecturer in the Department of Drama and Theatre, said: “The thesis he has produced tells a compelling story of the transformation of a folk tradition in post-traditional society whereby a group of 'culture bearers' have become cultural activists working collectively to insure their livelihood, defend their performance practice from misrepresentations by 'outsiders', and developing strategies for recruiting future generations of performers and ensuring the survival and regeneration of their art in the 21st century.”

During the course of the research, Dr Reeve learned the craft of ethnographic field techniques and methods, which he continues to apply as a performance ethnographer in other contexts. He also developed a close relation with a group of performers, who continue to dialogue with him towards Mr Punch's 350th anniversary in 2012.

“The PhD strengthened relations between Royal Holloway and the puppetry community, and ably demonstrates the importance of collaboration between the professional sector and academia in the production of new knowledge about artist practice,” Dr Cohen added.



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