20 Dec:
Panto’s Greatest Dame

Victorian music hall star Dan Leno, creator of Widow Twankey and Mother Goose, was born on 20th December, 1860. A child prodigy of the stage, Leno kicked off his career as “Little George, the Infant Wonder,” winning the World Clog Dancing Championship in Leeds.

Having become an esteemed character comedian, Leno was poached to play Dame Durden in ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane – a success so immense that he played the role for 15 consecutive years, effectively kickstarting the tradition of the pantomime Dame. Oh Yes He Did!

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the comedic chaos of Christmas shows provided an outlet for upper class audiences to revel in the bawdy antics of working class comics; reveal Leno’s later struggles with alcoholism and desire for recognition as a serious actor; and consider whether he really is still treading the boards of London’s West End – as a ghost… 

#Christmas #Theatre #Victorian #Person 

Further Reading:

‘Dan Leno – the pantomime dame’ (Promenade Promotions, 2022):