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Pantomime Dames

1098 of 1157 nominations


Pantomime Dames

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Pantomime Dames

What is it with the British and men in frocks? They’re funny, that’s what. And so are the men in frocks. When foreigners claim they can’t understand the subtleties of our humour, it is the pantomime dame, with her billowing gown, extravagant headgear and regulation ton of makeup, that passes them by. But they’ve been around a long time. In Shakespeare’s day, women weren’t allowed on the stage and so the female roles were taken by boys. The true ancestors of the dames, though, are the music-hall and variety stars of the Victorian era, such as Dan Leno and Herbert Campbell. Decked out in an outrageous new frock for each entrance, characters such as Widow Twankey, Dame Trott and the Ugly Sisters are simultaneously the villains of the piece and also lovable for their flirtatious vulgarity. And let’s face it: when the curtain goes up at panto time, who are you most looking forward to seeing? Cinderella? Buttons? Of course not. There is nothin’ like a dame!

Photo: ArenaPAL Picture Library / Topham


Your comments

Having tried to explain the tradition of pantomime to American friends I can only say that this is the most peculiar, unique and bizarrely English form of entertainment ever invented. And no pantomime is complete without its dame. Men dressed in women's clothing making slightly risque jokes and flirting with the audience as populist family entertainment? Only in England.

Abigail Anderson

At the theatre, at school, or at home the pantomime has been a firm favorite with most English people of all classes and new ones are still being written to cope with demand. They appeal to the English sense of humour.
Paul Stockley

Outside of the UK even the concept of a pantomime doesn't exist unless it was imported. As someone living abroad, I really miss this topical, satirical, humorous story-telling tradition that targets both adults and children. It's not sickly-sweet, it's thought-provoking or just plain fun. Please export the pantomime!
Wendy House

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