The Dame, 3 Stars

The Dame
Park 90
2nd to 26th January 2019

“My armour, my war paint, the battle out there: it’s all I’ve ever known.”
A lost world of seaside entertainment, piers and promenades are brought to life when seasoned Pantomime Dame Ronald Roy Humphrey returns to his Northern roots for the Christmas season. As the curtain falls on the last show of the day, Roy is in a wistful, melancholic mood, but as the years fall away, ghosts and memories from the past confront him with what he has spent his whole life trying to forget.
The Dame takes us on a journey inside an entertainer’s mind to expose the fragile creature beneath the make-up, bluster and bravado.
However many masks we wear; the truth will always be revealed.
The Dame by Katie Duncan, starring Oliver-nominated Peter Duncan, directed by Award-winning Ian Talbot, transfers to the Park Theatre, London, from Wednesday 2 January 2019 to Saturday 26 January 2019 after an acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Produced by Cahoots Theatre Company and Gale Productions in association with Park Theatre.

Review by Richard Lambert, 3 Stars

A play with Song, an hour long with fine acting from Peter Duncan – the cheeky chappy from Blue Peter.

We’re all made up of our history and Katie Duncan (Peter’s daughter) explores what goes into the make up of a panto Dame who is compelled to keep working to his grave, even while acknowledging the deterioration and filth of the same old theatres he’s worked in all his life. The script has good pace throughout but the story goes off into too many tangents.

From an abusive father who belted him, a sister sent away for adoption, no mother in his childhood, hard graft and without praise, he relates his stories, jumping from childhood to adult life and back again in a chromatic manner. With digressions into the impact of a fire, the War, his heroes and his inner demons we build a picture of the person who dons a dress and becomes larger than life hiding beneath wigs, frocks and innuendo.

Ian Talbot expertly directs this insighful piece. James Smith provides a fabulous lighting plot that clearly telegraphs when you’re in a flashback, or on stage, or in the dressing room, or in a memory. The Set (Peter Humphrey) is realistically cluttered as is often the case during a panto run for a Dame with multiple costume changes.

The quality of the production is really good. But, there is a but, this Dame does not show the veneer that protects the actor – we don’t see the camp, the jokey patter, the smiles and laughs, the naughty cheek. The surface is missing, the veneer isn’t even rubbed. We only see the depressing, the sad, the angst, the fear. Sometimes in our darkest times we portray our most cheerful exterior as a mask – sadly this 360 degree perspective is lacking. Instead, we’re shown the straightest man to ever play Dame in panto. We don’t see the professionalism and experience and hurdles overcome in creating a larger than life jolly Dame. This lack of balance reduces the impact. We learn nothing of his sexuality, his loves, his achievements. We only ever see what the World has done to him in historical snatches. And it’s terribly sad.

The production is really well done with some superb acting but the book could deliver so much more!

Tickets: Click Here

Photo Credit Robert Workman

Further Information

Cahoots Theatre Company and Gale Productions
in association with Park Theatre
by Katie Duncan
Clifton Terrace,
Finsbury Park,
N4 3JP
Box office: 020 7870 6876
2 – 26 January
Press Night: Friday 4 January at 7.00pm
Monday – Saturday at 7.45pm
Thursday & Saturday at 3.15pm
Previews £14.50
Standard £18.00
Concessions £16.50
Child (under 16) £13.00
Groups Buy 10 tickets
get the 11th free
* Telephone booking fee: 10% (capped at £2.50 per ticket)
Dementia Friendly performance £10.00
Thursday 24 January at 1.00p
Age guidance 12+