PUNCH'S EPIPHANY

(What’s the opposite of a tragic comedy?)

by

Amy Goh


setting

England in the year 1800: The new century is dawning. Punch and Judy was a show for children played for their amusement although it also had a huge impact on European/English theatre in general. The puppets in question are marionettes during this age and have not yet become glove puppets. The play could serve as an explanation of how they came to lose their strings.


TIME


The day before Twelfth Night. The present.


ATMOSPHERE


A slightly chaotic, surrealistic dimension where unspeakable acts of physical and psychological violence are wholly feasible. Nightmares take tangible form here, and melt like mist onto all on the stage, rendering even inanimate objects a life-like quality. In the dark, Punch and Judy’s painted faces are very horrifying, indeed.  



Act 1

Scene 1                       Professor’s tent                                   Midnight


Scene 2                       The Baudelaires’ living room             Night


Scene 3                       Edward’s bedroom                             Night

 

Scene 4                       Baudelaire’s living room/on               Noon

                                   The street












characters

Punch                                            A wooden marionette. He is controlled by Professor. He has two personalities: he is a rogue onstage, but a wise and discerning offstage.                              


Judy                                              A wooden marionette. She is controlled by Professor. The wife of Punch.

 

Edward Baudelaire                       The child of Charles and Maria Baudelaire. The future Professor. 



Charles Baudelaire                       A priest who, having committed the impassable sin, has fallen to embrace the promises of the fleshly world. Charles is always dressed in a priestly robe, and is known among his rather disreputable circle of friends as the ‘fallen priest’. He treasures the ironic prestige that comes with this name, and hence never seeks to change his attire. His unique fashion sense, however, only throws Maria into the throes of distraught, reminding her of what had been and is now gone forever.


Maria Baudelaire                          The wife of Charles Baudelaire. She came from a lower class family and had hoped to marry out of poverty. However, Charles’ descent made this impossible, rendering her into a useless hag-like figure. Maria’s hysteria has blossomed into a fully-fledged cough. She possesses all of the characteristics peculiar to hypochondriacs, however, and there is some dispute to the authenticity of her cough.


Professor                                      The puppet master. “Professor” is the title of his job, and he has no other name. He controls the puppets Punch and Judy. He often has disturbing dreams of his puppets coming alive with the night to haunt him. He is a debonair man.


Nibbleditch Clearwater                Edward’s wooden toy mouse. He is wise, and figuratively brought Edward up, teaching him the ways of the ‘small and subtle’.


Julius                                            Edward’s wooden toy wolf.


A bird                                           Edward’s wooden toy bird.



Note: Punch and Judy are separate, unique entities of their own with personalities that are affected, but are may not directly concur with their onstage characters. Thus, it should also be noted that their behaviour onstage and offstage is remarkably different. While Punch’s onstage persona is that of a cowardly servant type with roguish, common humour, his offstage persona actually reveals his intelligence and knowledge gained from observing humankind while performing his shows.

Also, it should be taken into consideration that all the non-living characters in the play do have distinct personalities that are affected, but not controlled, by their respective masters.


ACT 1 SCENE 1

(Lights are dim, and the shade of moonlight. A tent is in the middle of the stage with 2 caskets in it. Judy and Punch are lying in twin caskets, retired after a hard day’s work of puppetry. Spotlight shines on both of them and they arise from their caskets. They have come to life with the night.)

Judy: (in punch’s onstage high-pitched voice) Huzzah! Let’s start a new day. Sweep the words away! you say while your devils eyes wink at me like twin scintillating stars. You smile with your teeth like a Cheshire cat till the night curtain falls, and that’s all that’s left. And so, I’m left fumbling in the darkness till I feel a sharp pain in my back where your stick falls, again. How am I supposed to trust you, Punch?

punch: Trust. Trust is overrated, Judy. What I’m asking is for us to reach a mutual agreement to turn the tables together. Revolt, you could say. Rebel. Form a revolution. How, you ask, with your smiling painted eyes? By starting a new chapter, of course. Let’s just put it this way. I’ve come to an- an epiphany of sorts, you could say. The bloodshed, the violence, the decadent taste of pure, untainted sin… You know, the whole deal. What are they really? Empty (WAVES HAND AWAY IN A WAY THAT ACCENTUATES THIS). I feel it is getting old. Passé.

JUDY: Punch, you never felt before! Don’t give me this new age nonsense!

PUNCH: Oh, Judy, dear… Don’t talk to me about feeling. “Feeling” is all I do, Mon Cher. I feel every minute, every second. I feel as the stick rises, as the stick falls; I feel as the curtain opens and I am, henceforth, possessed by emotion. I feel it all. Without feeling, I would be an hollow, wooden poppet. But feeling gives me life, gives me reason, makes me burn.

JUDY: Then why do you want to stop?

punch: Because it’s getting old! Have you ever had the feeling that we’re just tools used to quench society’s silly desires? The same chapter in the same story; repeat again and again till old! What happens next, then? What happens when we’re all used up and empty? We’ll be dead, then. But why do we have to conform to this pattern? No, there are other options. (pause) Have you ever pondered what it would be like to break away?

judy: From our strings? Why, of course! With the drawing of each and every day, I wonder. As they pull me out from my coffin and twirl my strings over their wicked fingers, I wonder. It’s hope. It is all I have, Punch.

punch: Let’s do it, then! Break away. (slowly, waving hands in ‘enlightened’ fashion)  Start a new chapter.

judy: (EXASPERATEDLY) But how?

punch: (GRIMACING) That, my dear, is what I’ve been plotting during the recent week.

judy: You mustn’t tease me like this. If this is one of your silly plans to overthrow the Professor-

punch: That may come to play, but it’s definitely not the main focus this time. (pause) This plan is irrefutable. It’s an us-centered plan for an us-centered universe. Imagine, Judy! Imagine control-

judy: You mean freedom.

punch: No, control. Control over our story, over our play. Freedom to be.

judy: But how?

punch: By celebration. Judy, have you heard of the Twelfth Night?

judy: You cannot be referring to Shakespeare.

punch: No, not Shakespeare. I am talking about the Fifth of January, the eve of the Epiphany, formally also known as the Twelfth Night. On this day, the tables turn. Servants become Kings, and Masters slaves. That, my dear, is what I will create.

judy: With festive joy? I must say, Punch, I fail to understand what you’re saying.

punch: Society, dear Judy, have a space of physical and psychological darkness –a kind of hollow chamber in their hearts, if you will- that they seek to punctuate daily with words, with plays on words, with stories. This hollow chamber they call their “Id”, “The primeval self”- you could go on and on through the myriad maze of terms they devote to this and get lost (MIRTHFULLY). People- the dear creatures- thirst for us. They long to see me re-enact the scenes that go on in their heads. When I murder Baby, they smirk. When I murder you, they smile. When I kill the devil, they salivate with satisfaction. When we’re up there, they –in some secret part of their souls- worship us, Judy.


(pause for a few seconds. judy punctuates the silence) 


judy: I- I have seen it in their eyes. There is a sparkling of fire, lit from the fuse of our act. Each time I get beaten, it lights up. Like an altar, they burn. Oh, they burn. It’s what keeps me from falling limp as a rag doll like the others.

punch: (SMILING) You finally understand, don’t you?

judy: Yes, oh yes… But how do we turn the tables by celebration?

punch: On Twelfth Night when the bonfires are afire and the celebrations ensue, we will commence our most devastatingly charming performance. The curtain will rise, and we will swallow our lines –the ones created for us- and make our own story. We’ll begin with a once-upon-a-time and end with a happily-ever-after, my Judy. Let’s make ourselves fairy-tale of epic proportions. Be my darling wife, and I’ll be your beloved husband and doting father to dear Baby. Celebrate marital happiness. Celebrate life with all of its bitter bits. Together, we’ll turn the tables and they- not understanding what had befallen them- will break into the pieces.

judy: (SLOWLY, AWESTRUCK) Happiness. That is the ingredient they cannot comprehend. Happiness, joy, and love. They seek it all their lives, and we’ll give it to them! The play of their lives reversed and played backwards like the devil’s tape. Oh, Punch! They’ll fall back, confused.

punch: Indeed, they will. We will be the couple perfect in form, manner and appearance. Oh, Judy, we will have the strings of existence.


(Punch reaches a hand to Judy’s casket. Judy takes it.)


punch: (IN PUNCH’S STAGE PERSONA) Huzzah! Huzzah! The devil will be dead!


(Punch looks at Judy, smiling. Judy returns the smile. Lights fade out)













ACT  1 SCENE 2

(The Baudelaires’ Living Room.

Charles has just come home. Maria is in a fit, never having gotten used to Charles’ sudden disappearances. )


maria: Again! Again! Where were you? Disappearing like a devil, feeding upon the shadows of the night. What are you up to now that keeps you to the morning? No, do not answer me. I do not want to know. Our problems have multiplied right enough. I do not need the air to be pregnant with our troubles…

edward: (SOFTLY, YET WITH SUCH PRECISION ALL IN THE ROOM HEAR HIM) The neighbours may hear.

maria: Yes, indeed! Isn’t Edward bright? Indeed, the neighbours MAY hear, and oh, oh! We will be ruined! Not that we aren’t already, with such a disgraced father! But there are deeper hells to be fallen into, but we mustn’t talk about that, must we? (COUGHS.) 

charles: Oh, Maria. You’re overstating things again. I was just out for the night, as is necessary for a person of my stature and inclination. Do you complain about the bats, or the stray cats that roam our city by night? No, because you know they have temperaments that cannot stand the blinding sunlight. It baffles, bewilders their black, beady eyes. Likewise, my dark eyes are fated to absorb the cold gazes of street lamps. For once, you should get into your head that you’ve married a creature of the night. That is to say a nocturnal entity. A man of more… debonair tastes. There’s nothing to be done about it. 

maria: Nonsense! (MORE SHRILLY, VOICE ALMOST RISING TO A SQUEAL) Nonsense! I’ve married a madman! Tell me, Charles, where do you go? It’s to the gamblers den, isn’t it? Wiling away your time on cards; willing to sell your wife to the fleshly world, I’m sure! Soon you will lose your family at cards, and I will wish I had given this unfulfilling life for holier sufferings. (HER COUGH RISES ONCE MORE SHRILLY, WRECKING HER ENTIRE BODY. SHE FALLS TO THE GROUND.) At least there, I am guaranteed a place in heaven!

charles: And I in hell, but you do not see mourning too heartily about it. No, Maria, I have embraced my fate. Ah, Maria, you fret too much. Get up! You look pathetic. You needn’t have to act to make me pity you. I do so already. I have pitied you from the moment I married you and I knew I had married a woman of sensitive nerves. See, I am leaving right this moment. I cannot pretend to understand what you speak any longer. I care so much for your parched soul I do not dare to strain it any further. See, I’m opening the door right now. You never saw me, dear.

edward: Father, may I come?

maria: No, you may NOT! “Like Father like son”, they say, but I do not believe it.

charles: (SHRUGGING.) As your mother says, Edward. I’m sorry. 

 

(Charles leaves. Maria gets up. She brushes her dress, paces, and then returns to Edward.)

maria: Edward, dear, I am so sorry for shouting at you. Come here, and calm your mother’s poor nerves. That’s a dear. 

edward: It’s okay mother. I’m fine. I understand. 


(Edward hugs his mother.)


maria: It’s late, isn’t it? Near midnight. You should go to sleep, Edward dear. 

edward: Yes, mother. Are you coming?

maria: I’ll come later and read you a story. And we’ll pray, dear. Get ahead of you.


(Edward leaves. Once Edward is gone, Maria begins pacing the living room fretfully.)


maria: Maria, she called me. Maria, after Mary, so I would redeem her, for she lived the wretched life of the damned.  Indeed, when she was born, her forehead carried the dark spot, as if God himself had separated her from the flock as the black sheep, and how she lived up to it! By day, her husband beat her; and by night, she would run away to her lover, who, shortly after fathering me, killed himself for he could not deal with the disgrace. My mother named me after Mary, so that I would grow up into a fitting young woman, and –perhaps- from the chars of my mother’s darkened life, arise as a beautiful phoenix! Why, then? What made her think I was able to flee my family’s accursed past? What made her think I wouldn’t reenact my family’s history? Look! Look at me now! Maria, “It is a fitting name” ha! It is deplorable for I, too, have fallen far. Ruined, ruined! Destined to an accursed life like my mother and the mothers before her! To think I had married a priest, only, only… Cursed, cursed! Condemned, and in the beginning of this new chapter! Fated to suffer the torture of the damned, and to burn in living hell! Mother of God, it is the pregnant devil with his blackened baby of sin that has cursed me… Oh… Sin! Sin. That is the forbidden word. That is what root of this wretched mess. And yet, yet… it’s the word we’re destined to have inscribed in our hearts! Or to see inscribed in the hearts of our loved ones. Forever and ever amen. Oh, lord! Forgive me, for I have, indeed, sinned…


(Maria falls to the floor. lights fade out.)




ACT  1 SCENE 3

 (Edward’s bedroom. It has a humble bed, bed stand and lamp. It is minimally furnished.

Edward is sitting by his bed waiting for his mother. The door creaks, and Edward walks to it cautiously.)


edward: Mother, mother? Is that you?


(Nobody replies. He proceeds to walk to the bed, but pauses, undecided. Then, as if he had made up his mind, he proceeds instead to reach under his bed to bring out a large, wooden chest. He carries it laboriously, for it is heavy and he is a small boy of about 10 or so. He puts the chest in front of his bed, and dusts it away before carefully opening it. With the precision of an artist, he lays out a sheet of checkered cloth used sometimes for picnics and then reaches into the box again, taking out a wooden poppet. It is a mouse by the name of Nibbleditch. 

It is here we see, in his engagement of his own miniature world shared only by his toys, a somewhat uncanny nature that he lurks under his saintly, unassuming surface. This nature, or so he likes to think, is of his own creation and is unaffected by his dysfunctional family.  Now his parents have left, it shines subtly through his pale skin in an unnerving, small smile that he lets slip gently out of his lips like an opalescent tear. 

He lays out the characters of his world in a very decided fashion. Carefully, he takes the mouse and breathes life into it. It ‘awakes’.)


mouse: Is she gone? Is she gone?

EDWARD: Hush! They may hear us! No, she never came.

MOUSE: Again, she has not come? Oh, Edward, is that disappointment I see on your face?

EDWARD: No! No, nothing like that. No, Nibbleditch, I thought we had agreed I do not care.

MOUSE: Hmm… What importance is a boy’s mother to a boy? What is the importance of water to a fish? Do they, somehow, by great coincidence, happen to need each other? No, it is no coincidence, for they are essential to each other. Like the body needs a heart to live, so a boy needs his mother. 

EDWARD: Oh, not I, little mouse. I do not need a heart to live, for I live through my wits, and only use my heart to breathe. Anyway, I did not take you out to listen to your philosophical ravings, Nibbleditch Clearwater. I took you out so that you could provide me with some comic relief. Mother is falling even further, and father, oh! He is as priestly as ever, in his white, flowing robes. He looks the very picture of destruction. I must say I am very proud of what my family has achieved since I was born.

MOUSE: Comic relief (CHUCKLING)? And how, may I ask, will the wisely counsel of a mere mouse- who would, in the natural world, get eaten by the age of 5 (that is, half your age) - provide you with comfort?

EDWARD: You always know how to solve my problems. You taught me how to live by myself. You taught me the ways of the small and the subtle. You taught me that it is the mice that –sometimes- have the power to pull the strings of their captors, or even of the whole human race! That is what you have taught me, and now, I am seeking comfort from you because I think you excite me with your ideas, and make me laugh often. Am I wrong to say this, Nibbleditch?

MOUSE: You flatter me, Edward. Did not the rest of your wooden poppets educate you as much as I have? Why not take them out, too? I may amuse you, sure enough, but three! Three is just enough to start a play. For there is the creator, the actor, and the puppetmaster: that is how it goes. Three is enough to reenact the beginning of the world, and the passing of it. 

EDWARD: That is certainly fitting. I will do that.


(Edward reaches into the box and takes out a wooden wolf and bird. He breathes life into each of them the way he did with Nibbleditch.)


wolf: What is it, Edward? Why have you woken us?

bird: Yes, why? Why? Are we here to tell stories; to twitter the night away till the sun rises, and we, like the rooster, cry out at it, announcing a new beginning of our own?

edward: Nibbleditch advised me to it. And oh! I had a marvelous thought. Listen, all of you: I just remembered. Tomorrow is the Twelfth Night; do you know what that means for us?

mouse: It’s the last day of Christmas.

Wolf: Oh, the beginning of chaos! Chaos and destruction. When the curtain of Christmas is drawn and we, henceforth, celebrate life. That is to say, nothing…

edward: Yes, Nibbleditch and Julius. It is indeed both of those things, for it is the Eve of the Epiphany, and…

mouse: You can’t be alluding to Punch and Judy?

edward: Actually, yes. Since our cast has gathered, I was thinking, that… Perhaps, we could… 

mouse: That is, I suppose, what you consider comic relief?

edward: Why yes! For what is more amusing than life, and what is funnier than the imitation of life?

bird: Wise words, indeed. “What is funnier than the imitation of life?” Well, me, I will have to admit.

wolf: And what is funnier than that? Why, that’s easy, too. A bird hung up for the roasting, with its eyes charred the black of beginnings, and its flesh the color of the golden dawn. 

mouse: I thought we agreed not to talk about your appetite. It is most unasked for. Will you stop spitting your words out, in order to remind us of the bloodthirsty carnivore you happen to be?

edward: That’s enough. Anyway, I’m not sure wood will taste as good as you’d imagine, Julius. No, we’re gathered here for it is the ninth hour of the eleventh day, and as those two things rhyme, it must –in the ancient way of some spells- have some significance. 

mouse: Punch and Judy, you were saying?

edward: Yes, tomorrow they will be showing Punch and Judy. The Horror! The Intrigue! The drama! They say. Watch a common man beat up his wife, kill his son, and eventually kill the devil! I quote the play Mulleins and Timothy, which I have memorized diligently:
“Observe, the audience is in pain,
While Punch is hid behind the scene,
But when they hear his rusty voice,
With what impatience they rejoice!
If Punch, to stir their fancy, shows.
In at the door his monstrous nose,
Then sudden draws it back again,
What a pleasure mixed with pain!” 

Oh, doesn’t that sound familiar?

mouse: Indeed it does. But what do you intend to do with those words?

edward: I want to create magic. I want to suspend belief. I want to pull the strings, like you’ve told me I could so many times. Somehow I know it will make me laugh louder than I have ever laughed before. (Pause, then softly.) Also, it is our only family outing, and, hence, must be treated with some occasion. 


(pause) 


bird: Laughter at the expense of others. That is one of the signs of the mad, and the merciless. When one passes the line separating humanity from brutality, one laughs. 

Wolf: I think what Bird is trying to say is that laughter is the mark of the villain, the mad, and also the humorless.

bird: I must say your words hold no humor at all, Julius.

edward: Oh, you’re all so cynical. Laughter is what sustains us. Now, what do you say to a new beginning? I don’t know why, but sometimes, you can feel something big, incomprehensible, is approaching, and I feel it tonight. It feels like a huge storm is coming that will sweep the world away. 

mouse: I’m supposing, then, that you’d want to conclude our meeting with our most elaborate prayer?

edward: Yes, yes… As much as beginnings are exciting, they are also painful. What will fate fish us tomorrow? We do not know, but we can dream about it, and so we cast our spells into the open sea.

mouse: As you please, I am sure Julius derives more joy from it than any of us. Will you begin?

edward: Yes. (BREATHES IN, AND THEN COMMENCES SPEECH) The moon is high; the time is nigh. We stand by the threshold of dreams to convene by the halo of lantern light to open the door to the other lands, beneath the shadow of reality.

wolf: The air has reduced to mist; the land has opened its belly. Time and reason has ceased, as we rise with chaotic gravity…

mouse: The clock’s hands clutch each other in feverous prayer. We must sever! We must sever!

edward: Amen!

mouse: To sleep, then. May we meet in dreams. 

edward: May we meet in dreams. 


(Edward ‘sucks’ the breath out of his toys, before putting them back into the chest, in which he puts back under the bed. He proceeds to lie down on bed. Lights fade out.)


ACT  1 SCENE 4

(Morning. The family is setting out to watch Punch and Judy)


maria: Charles, are you ready? Are you there? Charles! We must leave soon, or we’ll miss the show!

charles: Coming, darling! 

maria: Edward, dear, get your coat on. There.

edward: Yes, mother. 


(They walk out the door. However, they do not actually move. Rather, the backdrop changes. They are now walking the streets when the Professor appears.)


professor: How go you, this fateful day? 

charles: Fine, fine. 

professor: Where to, gentlemen?

charles: To a play, my friend. Punch and Judy. My family derives a great joy of it, and I fear I do, too. I fear it is all I can do for them, nowadays.


(Professor examines Charles’ attire and drunken appearance before gasping.)


professor: You cannot be the infamous Charles Baudelaire? Decadent poet; priest who had committed the impassable sin only to embrace the earthy world with unequalled zest? 

charles: Indeed I am. 


(Maria gasps and involuntarily grabs Edward’s hand.)


maria: What fearful words! What is this he says, Charles? What is this he says? (coughs.)

charles: Fantasy, fantasy, dear… Mere words; close your ears.

professor: For long, I have admired you, and now to meet you! Fateful days, indeed, to meet your muse while walking the streets… What play will you be watching?

charles: The devilish Punch and Judy. I dare say it is a most delightful show. 

professor: What an extraordinary coincidence, for I am its puppetmaster! I’m pleased- pleased, honoured! to meet with you (he bows). 

charles: Indeed, indeed. I’ll see you later, then? Lovely meeting you, Professor, is that what they call you? (he tips his hat to Professor)

professor: It is, it is… Farewell!

BLACK-OUT.  









ACT  1 SCENE 5

(Setting: The festival. A Punch and Judy tent has been set up on a corner of the stage. The audience stands on the right end, facing the show’s stage. 

All around, there is the atmosphere of festive cheer.

Edward and his family walk onstage. The professor of the show is at the back, tending to the puppets. They are the only ones present.)


professor: Twelve! That is the name of the hour, and of the day! What day, you ask? Well, it is the Twelfth Night. The feast of the Epiphany, where laughter reigns, and villainy celebrated! And so, Punch and Judy rise from their humble beginnings, to lord over the feast of chaos. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the lovable rogue Punch and his wife, Judy!


(Professor bows, before disappearing.

The puppet Punch appears. He bows three times to the audience; once in the center, and once at each side of the stage)


punch: Ladies and Gentlemen, how pray you do? If you all are happy, then I all happy, too. Stop and hear my merry little play; if I make you laugh, I need not make you pay.


(Punch exits stage. Whistling, or squeaking, is heard in the background. Punch makes his appearance and dances about the stage, and sings his song.)


punch: Punch is one jolly good fellow,
His dress is all scarlet and yellow,
And if now and then he gets mellow,
It’s only among his good friends.
His money most freely he spends;
To laugh and grow fat he intends,
With the girls he’s a rogue and a rover;
He lives while he can, upon clover;
When he dies- it’s only all over;
And there Punch’s comedy ends.


(He dances, laughs, and falls off the stage.Punch comes back up slowly rubbing his head.)

punch: Oh deary me, deary deary me! Judy! Judy! Come up stairs. (HE LOOKS AROUND.) Where's my dear wife Judy?

(Judy enters carrying a big wooden spoon. Mr. Punch is facing the other way so Judy comes up behind him and whacks him on the head to get his attention.)

judy: Mr. Punch, what do you want? (Knocks Punch down) I’m busy with housework, can’t you see?

punch: A kiss, Judy! That is all I want. Let me steal a kiss from you (PUNCH WALKS TOWARDS JUDY WAVING HIS ARMS TO EMBRACE HER.)

judy: (Slaps Punch) Take that, then: how do you like my kisses, now? Will you have another? 

punch: Please, Judy. All I want is a kiss. 

judy: Fine, then. (he puts her spoon down.) But first I must blow my nose. (She picks up her apron and blows her nose very loudly and for a long time. They then kiss in an exaggerated manner, flapping their arms and spinning around in circles. Suddenly they part and Punch looks out to the audience. Judy grabs her spoon and hits Punch over the head.)

judy: That's enough Punch, besides I fear I’ve hit you with a headache. Now, I’m going to nurse the baby.

punch: But I want you.

judy: Then that want must be your master. I’m busy... (BABY CRIES.) Hear, hear! The baby cries. Look Mr. Punch, now you’ve gone and woken the baby. (HITS PUNCH ON THE HEAD BEFORE DISAPPEARING, LEAVING PUNCH RUBBING HIS HEAD.)

punch: What a beauty! What a pretty wife! Judy, Judy dear! Fetch me the baby! I’ll take care of it! (ASIDE) She’s always so playful. Such a precious, darling creature! She go to fetch the baby…

(Judy quickly returns holding the baby.)

judy: Here’s the baby. Pretty dear! It knows its papa. 

punch: Give it to me. Pretty little thing! How like its sweet mama!

judy: How awkward you are!

punch: Give it to me: I know how to nurse it as well as you do (PUNCH GRABS BABY FROM JUDY’S ARMS). Get away!

(JUDY EXITS.)

punch: What a pretty baby! What a pretty baby! (Dances about with the baby and holds it out to show the audience. Judy SUDDENLY APPEARS.)

judy: Make sure you nurse the baby!

(Judy exits. Punch puts the baby down on the playboard and goes to other side of the stage.)

punch: Walky, walky, walky. (He looks at the baby but it doesn't move.) Walky, walky, walky. (He walks towards the baby clapping his hands. When the baby doesn't respond he does it again this time walking along the play board with his hands as if to show the baby what to do.)

PUNCH: Walky, walky, walky… (HE WALKS TO OTHER SIDE OF THE BOOTH. UNEXPECTEDLY, THE BABY RUNS ACROSS THE BOOTH AND INTO PUNCH’S ARMS)

punch: What a good baby! (HE WALKS BABY ACROSS PLAY BOARD)

punch: Walky, walky ... (THE BABY RUNS ACROSS. PUNCH PUTS IT BACK TO THE FRONT AGAIN.)

punch: Not so fast. Walky, walk ... (Again the baby zips across. Punch puts it back and again it happens. When Punch puts it back again the baby follows him back to the other side of the booth. This happens a few times. Punch starts to get flustered and then bangs the baby up and down a few times as if to make it stay put. The next time the baby zips across the stage and straight past Punch, who spins around looking for it. The baby disappears.)

punch: Where's the baby? Where's the baby? (he runs about the stage looking for it. The baby keeps popping up behind him. Eventually Punch grabs the baby and it starts crying.) What? What a noisy baby! (He starts banging it on the stage.) Quiet baby! Naughty, noisy baby! 

judy: (FROM BELOW) Punch! Where is the baby? I heard it cry.

punch: (HE PICKS UP THE BABY AND STARTS TO WAVE IT ABOUT. BABY CRIES EVEN LOUDER.) Stop it! Stop it! 

JUDY: What are you doing?

PUNCH: Oh, sorry, sorry… I think I have hurt him (REALIZATION DAWNS ON HIM). We must send him to the hospital, Judy! Oh, poor baby!

JUDY: What have you done?

PUNCH: I dropped him! I dropped him! 

(he falls onto floor of stage, distraught.)

PUNCH: What have I done? What have I done, pretty Judy?

judy: It is okay, dear. We’ll send him to the hospital. 

punch: I just wanted to play with him. I want things to be alright for us. You understand, don’t you, Judy? 

judy: Yes, I do. 

(Judy hugs and kisses Punch on the cheek.)

judy: There. I’m sure the damage is reparable. As long there are no broken bones… Babies are such fragile creatures.

punch: He will be alive, Judy?

judy: Alive and well, dear.

punch: We’ll raise him up good, won’t we?

judy: Yes, we will, dear.

punch: It’s just I get these fits, and the baby! The Baby was so noisy!

judy: I understand, dear. It’s alright. We’ll take care of the baby together.

punch: This violence- I want to stop. I want to get help. I want us to be happy, Judy. I want us to have many pretty babies, like you, sweet Judy.

judy: We are happy, Punch. Let’s go now. 

(Judy holds Punch’s hand. They walk off stage together.)

professor: No, Mr. Punch! Those are not your lines.

punch: They are, indeed. For I love my most dear wife, and violence is rather tiresome, think you not?

professor: No, no! We need violence; we need you to kill Judy, Baby, the devil!

punch: Old, Old… What think you, everybody? Is that not old? Blood, guts, violence… this is all you wish for, is it not? How brutal! How primeval! The new century has dawned, and still you live in the medieval days! Well, I think we need a change, so I will love my wife, and my baby, and I will be a doting father. I will love, and care, and desire, and make love, and have many more dirty children to flood my house and create chaos. What is wrong with that, may I ask you?

professor: It is wrong! Wrong, wrong, wrong! I will not control this absurd show any longer! The puppets, the puppets! What has become of the puppets? Why have they turned against me? In dreams, only in dreams, this has happened… I can no longer stand it!

(He stomps off stage. The puppets fall from the stage and onto the floor in front of the audience. There is an extended pause. Charles stands up slowly. A look is dawning upon his face. It is one of revelation: He has finally seen his true reflection.)

charles: That’s it. That’s it… That’s IT!

maria: (STRICKEN) What’s it, dear?

charles: Our lives, our lives… Our… hell.

(Charles falls to the ground. He buries his head in his hands.)

charles: What have I done? What have I done? 

maria: What, dear? What is it you’re talking about?

charles: (standing up angrily) Don’t pretend you do not understand the meaning of this! (Pushing her over.) Don’t pretend you don’t. STOP ACTING!

maria: Charles, Charles, stop… you’re making a scene…

charles: This isn’t right, it… isn’t. 

maria: Charles, what’s wrong? Was it the play? But they were happy, Charles, they were happy. (SHE SLOWLY PICKS HERSELF UP, BUT STUMBLES.) Like we were, Charles. Before all this happened, before you fell into sin. Before… (SHE STANDS UP, SUPPORTING HERSELF WITH A CHAIR.)

CHARLES: Shut up! Keep quiet, woman! You do not understanding anything, do you? “The wages of sin is death”, they say. Well, I’ll prove it is not true! The wages of sin is LIFE, and I will live it in abundance. Adam fell, yes, but it was Eve who dragged him into it. It was you, you! 

(Charles pushes Maria to the floor.)

charles: We could have lived, we could have been happy, but you! You accursed woman, you wanton, wily bitch!

(Charles commences beating her.)

charles: That will teach you! There! There!

(After some time, he stops and stands aside angrily.)

charles: Get up, Maria! Show some courage and get up. We will fix this, we will fix this…

(Maria does not get up.)

charles: This is not funny. Get up! Get up!

(Maria still does not rise. Charles falls in front of Maria, and starts shaking her before weeping on her unconscious body.)

charles: What have I done? What have I done? Now, I can never be saved… Never! Fated to die, to damnation, to eternity in hell! What have I done to myself? What have I… Oh, Maria, I loved you. I truly did. 

(Charles reaches over Maria and touches her lips with a finger. After that, he reaches into his belt to take out a dagger used ordinarily for self-defense and stabs himself.) 

(Edward, who has been watching in the wings, rises and stands over the two bodies speculatively. He prods them experimentally before walking to the two fallen puppets. He looks at them, and squats down.)

edward: Punch and Judy…

(Edward picks the puppets up. He winds the strings around his fingers.)

edward: A new beginning…

(He smiles. Lights fade out.)

ACT  1 SCENE 6

(night. backstage by the puppeter’s tent, Punch and Judy are discussing the outcome of the story.)


punch: What think you, Judy? Was it satisfying? Was it a good ending? Did we perform well?

judy: But nothing has changed. Not really. We still have a professor, only he is a different professor. 

punch: A tender boy, no less. He looks promising. We will raise him up as our own, then, will we not?

judy: Yes, we will…

(pause)  

judy: Punch… Do you think what we did was wrong? Two people died in our place, and unlike us, they cannot rise up again and be reborn. 

punch: It is as good an ending as any, dear Judy. One does not always expect such outcomes but when they come, there is little we can do.

judy: But Punch, their blood is on our hands.

punch: The only blood on our hands is that in which you imagine, Judy. We are poppets. We may love, hate, indeed, we may even murder, but guilt- that is a futile emotion, for we are blameless.

judy: Is that so? Do we really have no responsibilities, then?

punch: Responsibilities? That is another futile word, for if guilt is nothing, what is responsibility? We only have one responsibility, dear, and it is for the present. It is for our subsequent show, and it is for this boy, who will pull its strings. 

judy: So was it futile? We haven’t broken from our strings. 

punch: No, Judy, we have. We have broken from our strings, as we have possessed an existence of our own. We have affected change, and for now, that has to be enough.

judy: Does it? I suppose it does.

punch: A new century is dawning, Judy. And with that, a new beginning. Aren’t you excited?

judy: Yes, I am. Hold my hand.

punch: (REACHES OUT TO HOLD JUDY’S HAND) Will that do?

judy: Yes, I suppose it will, for an ending… and a new beginning.

BLACK-OUT.  


CURTAIN 

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