You shall go to the ball...

There’s Nothing Like a Dame

The art of ‘daming’ is a crucial element of the genre of pantomime. It takes all sorts – the short and rotund, the tall and slender, the motherly, the naughty and everything in-between.

The origins of the pantomime dame as we know it go back to the 1800s with well know dames like Dan Leno and Herbert Campbell. Other more recently notable dames include Les Dawson, Stanley Baxter, John Inman, Berwick Kaler, Danny La Rue, Damian Williams and Gary Wilmot.

It’s a difficult role to get right, but if you’ve nailed it once as soon as you walk out on that stage, you’ll be ready to go for another season.

Here’s my top tips for playing Dame:

1. Your costume is your first laugh, but the rest is your responsibility. Pantomime dame costumes are often outrageous and occasionally inspired, but they shouldn’t be the biggest joke in the show. The dame’s role as the resident clown is the comic backbone of any good panto so make sure that’s reflected in your script and casting.

2. Pace is the order of the day. With so many gags and routines to lead, the dame is largely responsible for the pace of the production. Don’t let it be you that slows the energy down. Deliver your lines with vigour and pace, and ensure your pick-ups are quick.

3. Walk the line between the adults in the audience and the children. There will always be scope in the script for innuendo, but never cross that all important line where the kids cotton on. Pantomime, at it’s heart, is good old fashioned family entertainment, and the kids should feel just as attached to your comedy as the adults do, even if it is for different reasons(!)

Why not get in touch and share your best dame tips with me at [email protected]

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