York Theatre Royal's Panto Dame Berwick Kaler to stand down after 40 years

For generations of pantomime fans he has been as much a part of the festive season as carol singing and Christmas pudding, but now Yorkshire's most famous dame, Berwick Kaler, is bowing out after 40 years.

Berwick Kaler is ending his long-running role as York Theatre Royals panto dame.
Berwick Kaler is ending his long-running role as York Theatre Royals panto dame.

Pantomime legend Mr Kaler announced today that this year’s production – The Grand Old Dame of York – at York’s Theatre Royal would be his last, bringing down the curtain on a remarkable career.

The 72 year-old made his pantomime debut at the theatre playing one of the ugly sisters in Cinderella back in 1977, since when the much-loved performer has become a feature of the city’s festive season.

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Mr Kaler began writing the pantomime because he felt the scripts were not up to scratch, with the absence of a plot becoming one of the hallmarks of his work. He once quipped: “Plots are for cemeteries.”

The actor, who is stepping down for what he calls a “complex set of reasons”, said his relationship with audiences in York was a special one.

“It’s just become a unique part of their life and my life.”

Those who work with Mr Kaler praised his dedication.

Artistic director Damian Cruden, who has co-directed the panto for the past 21 years, said: “I’d normally say something daft, we always joke about the relationship between the ‘manager’ and the ‘dame’, however today is a little more serious.

“Berwick has served the people of York and York Theatre Royal with absolute commitment for 40 years. He is due a rest.”