Commissioned by the Barbican, Walker Art Centre of Minneapolis and Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, the piece was first seen in the United States earlier this year. It will now run at the Barbican until 25 February 2012.
Billed as a "tragical comedy of manslaughter and love", The Devil and Mister Punch is Punch and Judy, 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 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.
The Devil and Mister Punch is staged to coincide with the 350th anniversary of Punch's first recorded appearance. On 9 May 1662 diarist Samuel Pepys wrote he had seen "an Italian puppet play… which is very pretty, the best I ever saw."
The Devil and Mister Punch is created and directed by Julian Crouch who co-founded Improbable with Phelim McDermott, Lee Simpson and Nick Sweeting in 1996. A director, designer, writer, maker and teacher, his other projects with the company have included Animo, lifegame, The Hanging Man, The Wolves in the Walls, Sticky and Satyagraha.
Elsewhere Crouch's credits include the multi award-winning Shockheaded Peter for Cultural Industry, design of 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.
The Devil and Mister Punch is devised by the company with text by Nick Haverson, Julian Crouch and Rob Thirtle, set design by Julian Crouch with Rob Thirtle and Mike Kerns, puppets by Julian Crouch with Jessica Scott, costume by Sarah Laux with Julian Crouch, music and lyrics by John Foti, Saskia Lane, Julian Crouch and the company, lighting design by Marcus Doshi and sound design by Darron West.