Nicola Wright

Review: THE DAME at the Park Theatre

The Dame - Park Theatre There can be no better gift for an actor than for their child to write a play specifically for them, and for that play to display the talents of both father and daughter so perfectly.

Katie Duncan has done just this for her father, the actor and former Blue Peter presenter, Peter Duncan. A one man show which draws the audience into the emotional journey behind the larger than life character actor Ronald Roy Humphrey, who has just finished another performance as pantomime Dame.

The set design, by Peter Humphrey is the dressing room of a Northern seaside theatre, where Ron grew up as a child. From the start of the play in true pantomime style, the fourth wall is broken, and Duncan charms and engages with his audience, before beginning to remove his makeup and the costume. As these outer layers are stripped away, so too are Ron's emotional layers, which are laid bare, as he reminisces and is forced to face the ghosts of his past.

Thanks to the atmospheric sound created by another member of the Duncan family, Georgia, and lighting by James Smith, Ron takes the audience with him on the often painful journey of his past. The son of a theatrical family, he was performing in his father's "end of the pier" summer shows and pantomimes, from an early age. But behind the 'show' a dark force, in the shape of Ron's father is revealed, and in these moments Duncan reminds us of what a talented and versatile actor he is. Switching seamlessly from singing, dancing and parading around his dressing room to the dramatic and disturbing childhood memories which shaped Ron's life.

Katie Duncan has proved herself a talented writer, and although the character of Ron is fictional, she has used much of her own family history to form the background to the piece. The play has been extended in length since its Edinburgh run last year, and therefore even if you have seen The Dame, it is well worth a trip to The Park to see Peter Duncan's powerful and moving performance for a second time.