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A Timber Idol: Mr Punch in Scotland Martin MacGilp Gilpress, 2012 £25 pb., 206 pp., 119 colour and b/w illustrations ISBN 9780957188105

In this fascinating account of the development of Punch and Judy in Scotland, Martin MacGilp has deftly avoided the ongoing disputes about the origins of Mr Punch in England. The first performance of Punch was probably by an itinerant Italian performer, but in Scotland this is thought to be Francesco Cardoni, rather than Giovanni Piccini, the usual candidate in England. Part of a larger project tracing the history of puppet theatre in Scotland, this is a wellresearched, engaging and thoughtful work which is copiously illustrated with fascinating pictures of puppets taken from contemporary images or held in museum collections. The material is arranged, for the most part, chronologically and the narrative throughout is clear and wellreferenced. Appendices include pen portraits of key performers such as Bruce Macloud and Jock Armitage, as well as an account of others recorded in Scotland. The listing of Punch and Judy material in Scottish museums will be an invaluable aid for future researchers. Produced as a large format paperback, the book is well presented, although a little more white space in the margins would have aided readability. Many of the illustrations will repay careful study, with the Punch performers often appearing as liminal figures, as they did in real life, in the background, or almost invisible through their familiarity. The book includes the departing Punch professor in William Macgregor’s bleak view of Doing the Provinces, as well as the rather more cheerful picture in William Reed’s Leith Races, with Punch taking his place alongside pipers, fiddlers, conjurors and performing animals. The book will be of interest not just to those researching puppet theatre, but to all with an interest in folk and popular theatre of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As would be expected from an authority such as MacGilp, the scholarly research here is exemplary with full notes and index and attention to detail throughout. We look forward eagerly to the next instalment in this vast project aiming to document the puppet in Scotland. [End Page 63]



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