Ukraine Fringe digital review: Punched / Rewind-A-Buddy

Punched – Fetch Theatre (UK), 45 min.

Promotional image for Punched

John Knowles and Fetch Theatre explore the fall of a working-class hero and the alienation of working-class culture through the eyes of a Punch and Judy performer.

This monologue is performed with gusto and pathos by Joshua Bill-Pascoe, capturing the dying Northern seafronts, and the old puppet shows that hark back to the mid 1800s but feel “out of time” now.

Writer Knowles captures the anger and angst of the unemployed man cancelled by political correctness, the issues around domestic violence and drug-taking, and the complex nature of those who are “the salt of the earth”.

Using the familiar tale of Punch and his casual violence towards wife, baby and authority, we glimpse the unsavoury underbelly of harsh working-class reality (for some) through one man’s reaction and confession to what he has done in life.

It’s a piece that doesn’t hold back, a hard-hitting drama that highlights the desperation and frustration of those pushed out, forgotten, left behind, and the danger that this can be caught up in far-right rhetoric.

Performed within the confines of the Punch and Judy booth, utilising the old scripts of the time alongside Knowles’s modern musings, Punched drips with cynicism and bleakness.

Described in its 2019 Crowdfunder as “an extraordinary mix of archaic words and phrases and the new vernacular,” Punched is a twisted eye-opener into a pocket of culture we cannot escape.

Enhanced with music by Foz Foster, which is “a wonderful blend of f*ck-up fairground and weird wonderland,” this show is hard to get out of your head.

Punched doesn’t offer answers, nor does it simplify a complex set of circumstances. It isn’t an easy watch, but it shouldn’t be, and it should lead to further discussion of how we have found ourselves here.


Rewind-a-Buddy – Paper Soul (USA), 45 min.

Promotional image for Rewind-a-Buddy

Written and performed by J Merrill Motz (who also has Brig in this festival), Rewind-a-Buddy is about “the rentable, watchable, rewindable friend” available on VHS, who will work for you without the need for human interaction or technology.

Odd, familiar (to those of a certain age, anyway), and fast-paced, Motz has created a world in his show that waves you in with a warm waft of nostalgia, then puts you in an audacious chokehold.

Performed/recorded on Zoom we find the ebullient Buddy “wanting to be your friend” through the medium of videotape, with all the awkward silences of early interactive ideas that try to get a response from the viewer.

Rewind-a-Buddy is very funny but also unfolds to a cleverly curated sadness as Motz’s Buddy reveals himself to be an angry soul full of failure behind his initial bouncy confidence.

There is a jenga game, a school yearbook from 2001, various bits of period set dressing, but surely this type of VHS is more 80s-90s than now – so when and where are we?

I felt that somewhere in this show, there was a clever idea that wasn’t quite ready to be fully teased out. Why does Buddy want to be “a friend” and why in this format? And it would benefit from a trim, feeling a little long at 45 minutes.


Ukraine Fringe continues to 3 Sep with a live programme in Kyiv (details here) and an online programme on Scenesaver (details here) where you can view titles for free or with an optional donation.

Scenesaver presents a wide variety of theatre shows from across the worldwide fringe. Register for free here.

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