Review: The Dame

Peter Duncan in The Dame, at The Space, Surgeons Hall
Peter Duncan in The Dame, at The Space, Surgeons Hall
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THERE’S something inherently sad about a clown, the painted smile and forced bonhomie.

* * * * * * / *

The Space, Surgeons Hall

Never is that truer than when the clown in question is a pantomime dame. A larger than life bundle of hilarity imbued with deep pathos and a barely concealed tragedy.

It’s what differentiates them from drag acts and female impersonators.

In The Dame, by Katie Duncan, former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan demonstrates his substantial acting chops as he strides into view in a wonderfully garish golden gown, complete with high-rise headpiece.

It’s the end of another performance, and the applause of the audience rings in his ears... along with the dulcet tones of the stage doorman, via the dressing room Tannoy.

In a dark, bittersweet script, penned by his daughter and inspired by the Duncan family’s showbiz history, past and present collide.

Alone in his dressing room The Dame, Ronnie, reflects on his return to the northern seaside town in which he grew up. As he excavates his childhood, long-hidden truths force him to confront his reasons for leaving.

Removing his ‘armour and war paint’ layer by layer, Duncan exposes the fragile creature that lies beneath the bluster and bravado.

It’s a heart-breaking story, beautifully written and powerfully played with twinkling mirth offset by searing moments of despair.

A celebration of the entertainers of the past and their legacy that lives on to this day, Duncan effortlessly flits between the present and past, capturing the innocence of a childhood, in this case one ever so fleeting.

It’s an enchanting, perfectly nuanced performance that grips from start to finish.

Until Saturday