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PERCY PRESS Snr. (1902 - 1980)
Known as the un-crowned King of Punch & Judy men.
For many years Percy had a regular pitch on Hastings Pier and performed regularly outside Madam Tussauds in London.
Inside St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden (Known as the Actors Church) there is a memorial plaque to Percy Press Snr.
Bryan Clarke, Chairman of the Punch & Judy Fellowship, pays tribute and shares his memories of Percy Press Snr.
"I first met Percy when I was 12 years of age, at a British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild (BPMTG) Exhibition at the Royal Hotel in Russell Square, London, where I had been asked to perform by the exhibition organiser Harold Aidleberry, as I had appeared on Television (In the days of Black & White TV).
I was to use Percy's own booth, however, the first obstacle I encountered was that he used a wire inside the Booth, to hang the puppets on (with each puppet having a hook attached to it) rather than individual hooks - but we sorted this out and I went on to perform my show and I immediately became acknowledged and recognised as a performer. From then on, Percy became my mentor and a friend and spent many hours teaching me the secrets of his performance, how to work an audience and deliver a joke.
His show was so special, the timing superb and the manipulation of the puppets was amazing. His speciality was the twisting and swirling of each puppet around the slapstick. This is not very easy to do, but it was very effective.
Percy gained his comedy timing and humour from being involved with Music Hall for many years, as well as performing magic on the streets. You name it, he had done it all and it really showed in each of his performances.
Being short of stature, Percy performed his Punch show with his hands above his head, enabling Mr Punch literally to walk around the booth, strutting like a cock hen.
His counting routine really was something else and he had many variations to it. But of all his routines, my favourite was that of the Hangman, great pantomime indeed. In all the shows I saw, never once did I see him do the Boxing Match or for that matter use a Policeman, but he always had a Beadle. In fact Percy did not bother with novelty routines at all and if he did, I did not see him perform them. His was a truly traditional show.
For many years he was Chairman of the BPMTG, a role which suited him well. Everyone in show business knew Percy Press Snr. Yet he was very humble about what he did, to Percy it was a job which allowed him to bring up his family on the earnings he made.
What a privilege it was for me to have known him. But most of all to have watched and enjoyed the best Punch & Judy show I have ever seen - Cheers”.
Remembered by Bryan Clarke