Modern Mystic League
Blackburn & District  Society of Magicians
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November 2021
President's Day with Martin Scott Price
14th November was President’s Day at the MML, and President Allan had arranged a visit from Punch and Judy ‘Professor’ Martin Scott-Price, aided and abetted by legendary Blackpool Tower Circus ringmaster, Norman Barrett.

Martin had assembled his colourful, specially-designed booth and began by taking us through the children’s routine which he has developed with great success over the years.  Using the theme of fishing, he introduced the Silver Sceptre (as an unusual rod), a tin of woollen worms which turned out to be the Professor’s Nightmare, the old three fishes sucker gag and stiff rope used in conjunction with a silver vase to create a geni in a bottle; all original twists on time-honoured pops.

Martin spoke about the inspirational Bob Silvano, who billed himself as the continental illusionist, creating an effect with interactive television which predated the later developments of David Nixon and Ali Bongo.

We heard that Martin had earned his first fee of 2/6 at the age of six, and first used a booth at the age of ten or eleven. He went on to appear on television, on Junior Showtime, at the age of thirteen.   His slick line of patter, honed over many years, was illustrated by deft word-play on SAUSAGES.

Moving on to the practicalities of P&J, Martin spoke about the most comfortable position to adopt inside the booth and the creation of the iconic voice without a swazzle.  A wooden crocodile head proved impractically heavy, and spectators were invited to compare this with the lighter fibreglass models – some now also being crafted from more durable rubber.

Martin took us on a brief history tour of P&J, touching upon his first appearance in Covent Garden as recorded in the diary of Samuel Pepys and tracing the character back to Pulcinella in the Italian commedia dell arte, where the slap-stick was first used.  It was interesting to hear that the crocodile made his initial appearance when the first alligator was exhibited in London Zoo, in response to this topical news item. Martin explained the origins of the term ‘bottler’, and reflected that the gallows scenes and introduction of the skeleton (both beloved by Harold Wells, along with the coffin) would not find favour in these more PC times.  Questions were asked about other forms of P&J throughout Europe.

All of this made for a fascinating canter through the background and traditions of Mr Punch and his family, concluding with an abbreviated version of the show in which members were invited to become an audience of children.

The fun was complemented by a delightful interlude from Norman Barrett, who reprised his presentation of the monologue The Lion and Albert, complete with ingenious home-made props.  Members joined in with his rendition of a witty ditty concerning the problems of aging.

To round off a splendid afternoon, Allan had provided a spread of sandwiches, apple pies and chocolate-covered biscuits. 

Chairman Roger thanked Allan, on behalf of those present, for all of his organisation. What was lacking in numbers the audience made up for in enthusiasm, enthralled by the subject matter and looking forward to paying a visit to Martin’s new puppet exhibition in the aptly- named Pelham Lodge in Blackpool.  

Brian Lead