Sunday 30 December 2012

On the 6th Gay Day of Christmas ...

… my blogger gave to me ..


Goose was the staple diet of most Victorian families on Christmas Day. Goose has also another association with this time of year. The traditional pantomime season is well under way and one of the oldest and most popular panto is “Mother Goose”. It is also the only panto in which the dame character has the title role and, because of this, is generally regarded by actors who play dame, as the best dame role of all.

At first sight it seems that the panto dame is totally different from drag cabaret, but it’s surprising how many cabaret acts have tried their hand at panto. The list below contains performers from both cabaret and panto.

1) Douglas Byng (1893-1987)
Nottingham-born Byng was the biggest cabaret drag act between the two World Wars and into the 60s. His reputation for creating outlandish dame costumes has influenced all Dames to this day. Douglas’s first panto was in 1921 in “Aladdin” at the London Palladium. His first dame roles was as Eliza the Cook in “Dick Whittington” in 1924.

2) Jack Tripp (1922-2005)
The Crown Princess to Douglas Byng’s Queen of Dames. Tripp appeared in over 50 pantomimes, many of them as dame. He once said that Mother Goose was the “Hamlet of Pantomimes”, and it was as Mother Goose that he made his last appearance in 1996. Like Douglas Byng, a Brighton bus is named after him.

3) Danny La Rue (1927-2009)
Better known as a glamorous female impersonator and cabaret star than a panto dame. His first dame role was as an Ugly Sister in “Cinderella” in 1956, a role he played for the next 14 years. He first played Mother Goose in 1984, and repeated the performance for the next three years.

4) John Inman (1935-2007)
Best known  for his role as Mr Humphreys in the camp comedy series “Are You Being Served?”, John was one of many dames to prefer Mother Goose to all other dame roles. He played the role 15 times.

5) Christopher Biggins (b.1948)
Probably the UK’s most famous currently active pantomime dame. His first dame role was as Mother Goose in 1971 at the Civic Theatre in Darlington.

6) And finally – me.
As a girl my mother performed in wartime panto and revue and was a magician’s assistant with family links to the last days of the Music Hall. I’ve played dame several times on the amateur stage but not yet as Mother Goose. But then I don’t think I need to because I’m descended from her! Not the real one, of course. My mother’s grandmother was Sarah Elizabeth Foster Goose. She came from a farming family in the Lincolnshire fens. So she is my grandmother’s “Mother Goose”.

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