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Michael Grade's History of the Pantomime Dame

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Up-and-coming TV presenter Michael Grade explains the evolution of a peculiar British cultural institution, in a lightly festive hour that begins with our host in full make-up, wig and tent-like dress. We learn how 18th-century impresario John Rich discovered harlequin shows were ten times more lucrative than Shakespeare; then how the specifics of a man delivering double entendres as a deliberately unconvincing woman gradually fell into place.

Grade chats with Gyles Brandreth, Richard Briers and Matthew Kelly about the demands of damehood. But the star of the show is Berwick Kaler, writer, director and dame of York’s famous panto. The future of the art form looks safe with him.


Michael Grade explores the history of the traditional theatrical character in Britain. From the 19th-century productions in Drury Lane to the performances by Terry Scott and Arthur Askey, the presenter learns about the reasons behind its enduring appeal, and meets actors Berwick Kaler and Richard Briers, who offer an affectionate insight into the much-loved figure. The TV mogul also dons a drag outfit to experience the pantomime dame first-hand.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Michael Grade
Contributor Berwick Kaler
Contributor Richard Briers
Director Michael Burke
Executive Producer Debbie Christie
Producer Michael Burke
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