Premiering as part of the Mardi Gras festival, the Café Debris Theatre Company’s Fabulous Punch and Judy Show revamps the near-forgotten story of Punch and Judy for a more adult audience looking for theatre with a social conscience.

Once a popular form of children’s entertainment, Punch and Judy puppet shows, which have been performed since 1832, have been on the decline in recent times as political correctness and cautious parenting scares puppeteers off from performing the brutally violent yet amusing shows.

For playwright Brent Thorpe though, the branding of Punch and Judy as “child inappropriate” is nothing but a blessing, allowing the piece to be opened up for a darker more politically aware interpretation of Punch and Judy’s motivations.

“The genesis for this really was observing the appalling things that humans do to each other,” Thorpe said.

“The recent spate of murders involving children reinforced how important it was for this work to live – to remind us of how obsessed society is with control when it seems that control is quite beyond the perpetrators of heinous crimes.”

As the characters in this contemporary interpretation embark upon an unfettered expedition of sexual, mental and physical abuse, not to mention murder, it raises questions as to the nature of power structures, moral imperialism and the hypocrisy which exists in our social structures. Exploring all this with an adherence to the classic Punch and Judy element of dark humour, this is a piece to make you laugh, albeit uncomfortably.

Shows at the Cleveland St Theatre, 199 Cleveland St, 14-29 February. Tickets: 9558 3989.

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