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Dan Leno: A Royal Jester

  • Settle Victoria Hall 24 Kirkgate Settle, England, BD24 9DZ United Kingdom (map)

This exciting new play stars Steve Royle (BBC Radio Lancashire) as Dan Leno who developed his skills as an artist in the Northern and Lancashire Music Halls and became a champion clog dancer, acrobat and comedian. He then went on to become a huge celebrity in the London theatres and established his name as the pre-eminent pantomime star at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, where he created some iconic dame roles, and became a favourite of King Edward VII and the Royal family.

Dan Leno (George Wild Galvin) 1860-1904 – was born in London into an impoverished music-hall family. His parents worked the northern music-halls of Manchester and Lancashire. His father died when he was four and his mother remarried. Dan spent much of his childhood performing with his family and brother billed as ‘The Great Little Lenos’. It was in Lancashire he was taught to clog dance and became a champion.

After an accident on stage when he hurt his back, he moved his performance away from tumbling and contortion and developed as a patter singer and comedian – it was this development that led him to create gossipy comic male and female characters that his audiences loved.

Returning to London, he became a big star of the pre-eminent theatres and went on to also star in pantomime at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, where he created some memorable pantomime roles such as Mother Goose. His health deteriorated and he began to become irrational and forgetting his lines. He was thought to be insane, and spent time in the Camberwell Asylum, but it is now widely accepted that he was suffering from a brain tumour that changed his personality and eventually killed him at the young age of 43.

It has been many years since I first ever thought of writing a play about Dan Leno and his life. I always hesitated mainly because I believed that it would be impossible to find someone capable of recreating Dan’s unique style. His comedy was not in what he said, although what he said was often very funny, but it was as much about his physical and facial comedy. And my lord, those eyes! He could be funnier with all those things – the words just served that physicality of his. However, I now believe that bringing Dan to life again is at last possible. I recently caught a performance of Cinderella where juggler and comedian Steve Royle played Buttons. The moment he appeared on the stage all I could think of was Dan Leno. This play was written because of Steve’s performance and he is the only person I can imagine ever being able to play Dan.
— David Slattery-Christie
Comical, gripping and poignant…he fully inhabits the role and simply is Dan Leno
— Lancashire Evening Post


Concessions £8

Earlier Event: 27 April
Motel California