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A pantomime dame is a traditional character in British pantomime. It is a continuation of en travesti portrayal of female characters by male actors in drag. They are played either in an extremely camp style, often but not exclusively by actors well known for their homosexuality or effeminacy, or else by men acting 'butch' in women's clothing.
One example is Widow Twankey in the British pantomime version of the Aladdin story. In Monty Python's Flying Circus (Episode 30) non-British viewers were puzzled by the nature-film sequence in which the Pantomime Princess Margaret, lurking in the undergrowth harpooned a silver breakfast tray that was scuttling down the woodland trail: "The unsuspecting breakfast glides ever closer to its doom..."
Notable Pantomime Dames in BritainEdit
- Douglas Byng (1893-1988) - A legendary dame who appeared in over 50 pantomimes, Byng was also a noted cabaret and revue artiste. He was the first glamorous dame and designed all his own costumes.
- Paul Barrett - Resident dame for the Citadel Arts Centre in St. Helens.
- Christopher Biggins - TV personality, actor
- Norman Evans - "Evans' distinctive dame evolved out of nosy neighbour Fanny Fairbottom, a character he played on the sketch show Mr Tower of London. Fanny was hugely popular, and allegedly inspired Les Dawson to create the character of Ada" 
- Melvyn Hayes - TV personality, actor
- John Inman - Camp comedy actor well known for playing Mr Humphries in TV's Are You Being Served?
- Berwick Kaler - Currently Britain's longest serving, Kaler has played his extremely non-camp dame at York Theatre Royal since 1977
- Sir Ian McKellen - Theatre and film actor, famous for playing the role of Gandalf in The Lord Of The Rings film trilogy.
- George Lacey - "Widely regarded as the greatest dame of his generation, Lacey played more than 60 dames between 1923, when he was 19, and 1984" 
- James Rogers - The first actor to play Widow Twankey, in the 1861 pantomime at the Strand Theatre. Twankey was a popular brand of Chinese green tea
- Danny La Rue - veteran drag artist
- "Little Tich" - Harry Relph
- Jack Tripp - February 4, 1922 - July 10, 2005
- Tommy Trafford - Lancashire comedian
- Christopher Friar - Dame Molly in Peter Pan, Glasgow 2007
- Patrick Fyffe - creator of Dame Hilda Bracket