THE CONFESSIONS OF PUNCH AND JUDY created by Ker Wells, Tannis Kowalchuk and Raymond Bobgan, with Wells and Kowalchuk, directed by Bobgan. Co-produced by Cleveland Public Theatre, NaCl and Number Eleven Theatre and presented by Number Eleven at the Theatre Centre (1087 Queen West). Runs to May 8, Wednesday-Saturday 8 pm (April 28 at 7 pm), matinee Sunday 3 pm. $15, Sunday pwyc. 416-538-0988. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Relationships are always tricky, but you won't find a more fractious one than that between Punch and Judy, a couple whose love is inseparable from the violence they rain on each other.
The Confessions Of Punch And Judy translates that archetypal puppet husband and wife into live figures ( Ker Wells and Tannis Kowalchuk , who devised the show with director Raymond Bobgan ).
Proving again and again that this couple's subtext is emotionally deeper than anything the two actually say, the show is part circus, part smart patter and part storytelling.
The physically adept performers - Punch in blue, Judy in red, with touches of yellow shared between them - are fine at the little verbal putdowns as well as the mimed segments and the classic Punch-and-Judy scenarios, complete with mutual beatings, into which the characters regularly descend. These are two people who treat aggression as both active and passive.
All the while we're left questioning, with nice theatrical tension, who's the more manipulative and unhappy, and wondering whether this couple can get back on track.
Beneath the knives, hammers and confrontations, there's a sense that Punch and Judy care about each other; that idea of a close relationship being both stressful and necessary is something with which we can easily identify.
Here's a long-term marriage - and it's not a unique one - where everyday tedium and incendiary anger are close cousins.
The most fascinating parts of the script are the mythic tales, new takes on the Garden of Eden and the Minotaur, as well as a fairy tale piece about a snake baby seeking a wife.
Still, the show could use some pruning. The several ideas are presented over and over, and though the means of telling the story change and the verbal and physical imagery are sometimes literally striking, we get the point way before the 75-minute piece's end.