Friday, November 1, 2013

Antique Image of the Day: George Speaight in Performance, 1951

Hello, all...sorry, but there won't be a "Punch's Puzzles" today because I've got a busy schedule.  But, not to worry, we'll be back with the usual riddle nonsense next week.

In the meantime...let's have a look at one of Mr. Punch's staunchest supporters.

So, for a few years now, we’ve looked at images from the George Speaight Punch & Judy Archive at the V&A. But, who was this Mr. Speaight and why did he have so much Punch-related stuff?

George Victor Speaight (1914-2005) was a theatre historian and the foremost expert on toy theater and the history of puppetry in Britain, if not in the world. In the 1930s, George (brother of the Shakespearean actor Robert Speaight) began performing his own puppet shows on Oxford Street.

His first book, Juvenile Drama: The History of the English Toy Theatre came out in December of 1946. Following this, he became manager of Pollock's Toy Theatres. He pursued theatrical endeavors throughout the following years. In 1955, he released his next book, “History of the English Puppet Theatre” and, thus, began a long career in reference publishing.

For nearly sixty years he was married to Mary Mudd, an engraver of wood. He died a year after she did. They had one son and one daughter. Upon his death, Speaight left his tremendous collection of puppet-related materials to the V&A. Most of the collection relates to the history of Punch & Judy. The V&A has spent years cataloging this massive and important collection, and, just now, we’re seeing these items for the first time since they were collected by Mr. Speaight.

From his collection, here, we see a photograph of George Speaight posing with a puppet surrounded by an audience. The photo dates to about 1951.

George Speaight (center), 1951
The Victoria & Albert Museum

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