Gallery: Simon Cowell and Prince Harry visit Great Yarmouth

It is a 350-year-long tradition that has largely deserted Britain's seaside resorts.

So Punch and Judy aficionados decided to pull some strings with Simon Cowell, Prince Harry and Boris Johnson to restore the puppets' popularity.

And it seems to have worked – as crowds flocked to see a 21st century take on the classic Punch and Judy on Great Yarmouth seafront yesterday.

Puppet master James Arnott, 26, is the man behind Punch and Judy Rebooted and is touring the country with his cast of celebrity dolls.

And his script – penned by comedy writers John Phelps and Gary Lawson for TV channel Gold – is full of familiar names.

'There's still an appetite for the traditional stuff,' said James. 'It's lasted 350 years as it's managed to stay fresh.'

A red and white striped stage was set up near to Yarmouth Sealife Centre, and guests young and old enjoyed the quirky performance.

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Prince Harry took a break from the national headlines to appear, along with Nick Clegg as 'Cleggy the Clown', judge Simon Cowell and bumbling policeman Boris Johnson.

Protagonist Punch has evolved into a benefits cheat, Judy is a 'wannabe WAG' with new arch enemies Longa the Loan Shark and The EU Sausage Inspector.

And James – who started to dabble in puppetry at the tender age of 16 – says the show went down a treat.

'It's been really good bringing it to the seaside,' he said.

'There aren't many towns that have Punch and Judy so it's great to bring back to where it has a history – and to do so with a new version of it.

'The kids really like it and there are jokes for the mums and dads.

'Children might not know who Prince Harry is, but they might find some of what he does funny.

'There's a really nice balance with the show.'

Professional puppet maker Bryan Clarke, of Kessingland, said he enjoying taking in the afternoon performance. 'It's not just for kids –it's for the adults too. In Victorian days it was an adult show,' said Bryan, 73.

When asked if he felt the show was a success, he referred to the evidence.

'Nobody moved very much during the performance,' he said.

'If the audience get up and leave there's a problem. If you've got the three Bs you'll be OK – be seen, be heard and be good.'

Punch and Judy Rebooted is touring the UK throughout August and is full of cheeky satire.

For more details, see Gold's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/goldtvchannel

samuel.russell@archant.co.uk

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