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Lynn Woollacott was born in 1955 in Nottinghamshire, and lives in the seaside town of Cromer. She's had many jobs from sewing buttons on cardigans to working as a lab technician in an all-girls school. She gained a BSc (Hons) with the Open University and went on to teach at Outdoor Centres in North Norfolk. Still with adult education she studied creative writing with the University of East Anglia.
Lynn’s mixed the dynamics of Judy and Punch, and Judy’s predicament, creating many layers in the strange, engaging and thought-provoking poems of 'Judy, Out of the Box'.
Lyn Woollacott writes:
"The appearance of Punch and Judy shows originated in Italy, in the fourteenth century. An early poster depicts the first performance in London as witnessed by Samuel Pepys in 1662. The shows have been part of British culture in seaside towns, market towns and cities since then. In initial shows Punch would kill his wife and child; Ghost would appear, representing Judy and the ghost of Punch united together as one. Even today, Punch falls into hysterics every time he sees Ghost. Historically the Crocodile represented the Devil, and Shallabalah was the Grand Turk of Senoa. During the 1800’s Shallabalah became the Publican.
Lynn’s poems riff upon Judy’s co-dependant relationships. With dark and light shades in situations relevant to the characters this fictional world examines the human side of Judy’s best and worst thoughts and behaviour."
Sam Smith reviews 'Judy ,Out of the Box' in The Journal (issue #62, 2021):
"An unpunched Judy as anticipated opens with an echo of Duffy's World's Wife, wife as male adjunct. (I still don't get why some women still rush to subsume their already identity under their husband's surname.) Here part whimsy, part commentary, the poems explore life in and out of the puppet's tall striped tent. The troupe's dynamic imagined, Judy dreams of other lives while weighted by her care for dog and baby. Rest of the cast – ghost, crocodile, publican and policeman – also coming within the realm of her care. Via pier and beach incidents she tells of the changes in their history, dress and character, while referencing here and there the hard-to-escape brutality of domestic abuse. Despite that grim reality the poems still manage to convey the lasting charm of this seaside attraction."
Extract from a review by by Philip Dunkerley in Orbis, winter issue 194, 2020
"… surreal take on the dysfunctional Punch and Judy spectacle // The poems come as free verse but vary interestingly in form: couplets, tercets, tetrameter, prose, drama and even concrete. Foregrounding Judy’s point of view works well, as a character, she has psychological depth. Having arranged the guillotining of Punch’s armour, Miss Polly, it fails to solve her problems. In the end though, Judy does achieve some peace of mind. //This is a story for our times, and it’s told with subtlety and charm."
Sue Wallace-Shaddad comments in Sphinx Review
"I really enjoyed this inventive, action-packed short collection by Lynn Woollacott. I was intrigued from the outset after reading the useful Foreword. This sets out the history of Punch and Judy, the theme behind the poems...
... Sausages feature strongly in several poems. In ‘Smokin Puppets’, Punch is ‘eating burnt sausages cooked in the flames.’ In the prose poem ‘Miss Polly is Distracted’, Punch ‘makes Toby dizzy spinning hoola-hoops from a string of sausages he stole from a pub.’
And we are taken into Judy’s moods, fights and nightmares, but also learn about her soft side. For example, in ‘Sleeping Arrangements’
Judy dreams of flowery chaise longues
and blue velvet chesterfields.
These poems are a form of escape. Like Houdini, Judy is a survivor and in poem after poem she reappears, bringing laughter, tears and mayhem."
--Read the full review here:
And Julia Webb comments:
"The domestic and the fantastical meet in the stunning and original new collection by Lynn Woollacott. ThePunch and Judy show is the perfect vehicle for exploring themes of domestic abuse and our attitudes towards it. The relationships explored here are not just between the puppets but also the puppets and their Master. Woollacott manages to seamlessly encompass other themes too: tradition, nature, history, science and all is served with both a seriousness and a subtle humour. The relationships here are complex and Lynn carries the whole thing off with panache."
Bernard M Jackson comments in Quantum Leap issue 92, November 2020
:… early childhood memories of open-air beachside Punch and Judy shows led Lynn to a deeper interest and inspired research into the centuries old traditional form of entertainment. In a fascinating interplay of reflective poetry, third person role-play prose passages, and occasional resort to the vernacular, Lynn personalises each of those stock Punch and Judy characters. // Judy emerges as Lynn’s key figure as we are witness to the gratuitous violence of a merciless, loud swazzled Punch. //
In this ground-breaking collection Lynn provides additional information … // a new and greater depth to all her puppet personages and I found her work most interesting and enjoyable, quote: ‘That’s the way to do it!’"
Judy, Out of the Box' by Lynn Woollacott
Published November 2020
Paperback, 14.8 x 21cm, 42 pages