(Lyn Gardner’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/10.)
Punch and Judy are 350 years old this year – their first recorded performance in England dates from 1662 – and Improbable celebrate in style with Julian Crouch's down-at-heel vaudeville show, which allows the irrepressible wife-beating, child-slaying, death-defying Punch full rein. Even the Devil ("You're looking a little stressed," Mr Punch tells him) is tricked by the delinquent puppet, who proves that when it comes to pulling the strings he's really the one in charge.
In Improbable's vision, Messrs Harvey and Hovey, two bowler-hatted, unsuccessful travelling showmen, are putting on a Punch and Judy show. But as the story develops, relationships are thrown into sharp relief. It turns out that – as many have long suspected – the Pit theatre situated in the bowels of the Barbican is hell itself, a place where the show endlessly goes on.