Dan Leno as Widow Twankey in Aladdin at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (1896)
Dan Leno as Widow Twankey in Aladdin at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (1896)

A pantomime dame is a traditional role in British pantomime. It is part of the theatrical tradition of travesti portrayal of female characters by male actors in drag. Dame characters are often played either in an extremely camp style, or else by men acting butch in women's clothing. They usually wear heavy make up and big hair, have exaggerated physical features, and perform in an over-the-top style.

Dame characters

Modern pantomime dames
Modern pantomime dames

Characters who are played as pantomime dames are often, though not exclusively, older, matronly women. They may be the protagonist's mother, as in Jack and the Beanstalk and Robinson Crusoe, or a nursemaid to the protagonist, as in Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. Although often warm and sympathetic characters, dames may also be employed as comic antagonists, such as with the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella.[1] Although some pantomimes traditionally do not contain standard dame roles, certain productions of those stories add a dame character, for example, in many versions of Peter Pan.[2] Other examples of dame characters include:

Notable pantomime dames

See also


  1. ^ "Pantomime Dames". Its Behind You. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  2. ^ "Peter Pan". Its Behind You. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  3. ^ "Goldilocks and the Three Bears". Its Behind You. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  4. ^ The Telegraph, 14 December 2005
  5. ^ Kennedy, Maev (8 March 2007). "Actor and dame John Inman dies aged 71". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 16 June 2012.
  6. ^ Roy Hudd and Philip Hindin, Roy Hudd's Cavalcade of Variety Acts, Robson Books, 1998, ISBN 1-86105-206-5, p.100
  7. ^ Donati, William (1996). Ida Lupino. University Press of Kentucky. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-8131-0982-4.