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THE DEVIL AND MISTER PUNCH to play at the Barbican in February

Improbable presents
The Devil and Mister Punch
The Pit, Barbican

The Devil and Mister Punch is a tragical comedy of manslaughter and love. It's Punch and Judy but as presented by Messrs Harvey and Hovey, a pair of broken vaudevillians who have played them all and are now in the gutter. In a small world writ large by a dog at a typewriter, the indefatigable Mr Punch is chased down for his crimes and put before the Judge. But it is creativity itself that is put in the dock and the whole show goes to Hell. Accompanied by a lush score of bass fiddle, gin parlour piano, metronome and bells, a set of fine crafted puppets and well worn performers battle it out on a gloriously theatrical wood-panelled set. Hilarious and thought provoking, beautiful and dark, brutal and tender, The Devil and Mister Punch is an explosion of noses and chins, crocodiles and sausages, piglets and baseball bats.

In 1662, Punch made his first recorded appearance. 350 years on, Improbable marks the anniversary of a theatrical icon with a unique and totally different spin on the childhood favourite. Samuel Pepys made the first record of "an Italian puppet play… which is very pretty, the best I ever saw” in his diary on 9 May 1662, now widely considered to be the ‘birthday’ of Punch. Punch and Judy has its roots in 16th Century Commedia Dell’arte, and has become a staple of British popular culture over the centuries. It has long held a fascination for artists, featuring in everything from Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop to the Marx Brothers’ Monkey Business.

The Devil and Mister Punch has been created by Julian Crouch in collaboration with the creative team. Julian is a director, designer, writer, maker and teacher whose career has spanned Theatre, Opera, Film and Television. He is a co founder of Improbable, with whom he has created Animo, lifegame, The Hanging Man, The Wolves in the Walls, Sticky and Satyagraha, amongst many others. Other projects Julian has created include multi award winning Shockheaded Peter for Cultural Industry (Olivier Awards - Best Entertainment, also nominated for Best Direction and Best Design, TMA Best Director Award, Critics Society Best Designer Award and a South Bank Show Theatre Award Nomination). Julian was Designer on the multi award winning Jerry Springer- The Opera, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at the National Theatre, The Magic Flute for the Welsh National Opera, and Dr Atomic at the Met Opera. He designed and co-directed The Addams Family musical for Broadway - winning an Outer Critics Circle Award and a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design. Most recently he has designed Macbeth for New York's Theatre for a New Audience and is currently working on The Enchanted Island for the Met.

Improbable was founded in 1996 by Julian Crouch, Phelim McDermott, Lee Simpson, and Nick Sweeting. Improbable creates theatre, opera, site specific work and Open Space events that engage, support and develop the communities in which the company works. In all Improbable’s work their journey has been as much about process as it has been about the end product. Improbable have made fifteen shows: 70 Hill Lane, Animo, lifegame, Cinderella, Coma, Spirit, Sticky, The Hanging Man, Theatre of Blood, Stars are Out Tonight, The Wolves in the Walls, Satyagraha, Panic, The Still and The Devil and Mister Punch and have established both a national and international reputation for innovative, exciting and accessible theatre and opera. Recently, Improbable’s co-production with the ENO and New York’s Metropolitan Opera of Philip Glass’s Satyagraha was revived at the Met, New York. Improbable is currently supporting its next Associate Co-Production with Improbable Associate Director Lucy Foster; The Pirate Project will go on tour nationally in Spring 2012. In the summer of 2012, Improbable will be facilitating the Devoted & Disgruntled Roadshow, a Cultural Olympiad project to take their monthly and annual Devoted & Disgruntled Open Space events across the nation. It will be an ongoing, multi-faceted series of real conversations between a diverse group of people across the UK, bringing together performers, directors, administrators, audience members, stage managers, producers and anybody who is devoted to, or disgruntled about, Theatre.


Running time: 85 mins (no interval)

CREDITS
Devised by: Julian Crouch, Rob Thirtle, Nick Haverson, John Foti, Saskia Lane, Jessica Scott and Seamus Maynard
Text: Nick Haverson, Julian Crouch and Rob Thirtle
Direction: Julian Crouch
Set design: Julian Crouch with Rob Thirtle and Mike Kerns
Puppet Design: Julian Crouch with Jessica Scott
Costume Design: Sarah Laux with Julian Crouch
Music and Lyrics: John Foti, Saskia Lane, Julian Crouch and the company
Lighting Design: Marcus Doshi
Sound Design: Darron West
Performed by: Nick Haverson, Rob Thirtle, Jessica Scott, Saskia Lane, John Foti and Seamus Maynard
Filming and Moral Support: Ragnar Freidank
Production and Technical Management: Rob Thirtle and Mike Kerns
Set Built by: Heywood Productions
With special thanks to: Glenna Ryer, Marie –Audrey Desy, Jessica Cerullo, Vicky Finney & Meghan Williams and the team at The Park Avenue Armory (New York) and The Walker, Minneapolis, for all of their help.

The Devil and Mister Punch has been commissioned by the Barbican London, Walker Art Centre (Minneapolis) and Philadelphia Live Arts Festival. The Devil and Mister Punch has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through the Philadelphia Theatre Initiative. Improbable is supported by Arts Council England.

The Devil and Mister Punch plays at The Pit, Barbican, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS from 2 to 25 February. Tickets £16 from www.barbican.co.uk

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