The curtains fall on another show and a seasoned pantomime dame is alone in his dressing room, unaware he is preparing for his own performance of a lifetime. Ronald Roy Humphrey has returned to the northern seaside town where he grew up for the Christmas season, and finds himself bitterly confronted with why he left all those years before, writes Michael Holland…

As he starts to excavate his past, he steps back into history, bringing to life the ghosts who once paraded and performed along the piers and promenades, removing the layers one by one until he arrives at a tragic truth he had spent his whole life trying to forget. 

A lost world of seaside entertainment, old time music hall and pantomime are brought to life in this one-man show where the past and present collide, where magical realism meets bleak reality, and however many masks we wear, the truth will always be exposed.

The Dame is a father and daughter collaboration; a one man show starring Peter Duncan, written by his daughter Katie.  Originally inspired by their family history of seaside summer entertainment and pantomime, which Peter grew up surrounded by, the play gradually evolved into a fictional, dark drama set amid the nostalgic backdrop of this golden, forgotten era.

Peter Duncan is a born and bred South Londoner, from growing up in Beckenham to now living in Wandsworth.  He is probably best known for presenting Blue Peter in the 1980s, but he is a man who was diverted into those presenting adventures after starting off as an actor.  In fact, at aged just 16 he was working in Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre Company at the Old Vic, and has been nominated for an Olivier award for one of the many top musicals his skills have graced.  But we shouldn’t be surprised at this because he says that his parents were performers in variety, so that atmosphere and environment rubbed off on the young Peter.  

Of this latest adventure he says: ‘The Dame grew out of my father’s early career doing beach shows on Redcar Sands after the war, and my daughter’s work in women’s refuges… My character in The Dame is heading for his King Lear moment in terms of pantomime and tragedy.’

The Dame is on at Blue Elephant Theatre, 59a Bethwin Road, Camberwell, SE5 0XT 12th July.  Time: 8pm.  Admission: £7 – £10. Phone: 0207 701 0100