Dan Leno

Mr Dan Leno Cards
Mr Dan Leno Cards by FirstNightVintage

Dan Leno was one of the most famous music hall comedians of his time (1860–1904) and was the forerunner of them all, the inspiration for many comedians and actors since.

This image comes from an original theatrical postcard in my collection which shows him playing pantomime dame in a 1902 production of Mother Goose at Drury Lane under the management of Augustus Harris.

A friend of mine, the actor and playwright Stewart Permutt, who has written a play about Leno, said to me in a 2003 interview  for my theatre site Rogues & Vagabonds that Leno “just played [his Dames] terribly truthfully and if you hear recordings of him, it sounds like a little lady.”  “He wasn’t gay, he wasn’t camp, he wasn’t Danny La Rue,’ added Stewart, stressing that Leno played his women, his dames, “absolutely for real”.  “He didn’t put on a silly voice or anything like that.”

Leno’s contemporary, the actor-manager Herbert Beerbohm-Tree, once said to one of his leading ladies, Constance Collier, that if Dan Leno had played Richard III, he would have been the greatest Richard ever.

Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah