REVIEW: Dan Leno - A Royal Jester, Wesley Theatre
A supreme performance by Steve Royle ensured that David Slattery-Christy's biographical play about Victorian music hall star Dan Leno was both comical, gripping and poignant.
The intimacy of the specially created Wesley Theatre (aka the Methodist Church Hall) enabled Royle to interact easily with a receptive audience, using his talents as impersonator, raconteur, juggler, contortionist and gurner in dazzling style.
He fully inhabits the role and simply is Dan Leno.
Set in Camberwell Asylum where Leno was being treated for a brain tumour at the age of 43, the play neatly narrates his life story through the excellent work of Jordan Kennedy as Leno’s brother, Nicole Violet as his wife, Louise Steggals as his nurse and Lytham-based Andy Cooke as his doctor.
Royle skillfully portrays the utter confusion in Leno’s head between his celebrity stage persona and his real self and throughout we are kept wondering whether it is a form of mental or physical illness or too much gin which is causing the problem.
A wondrous range of accents, range and tones of voice is employed as Royle moves seamlessly from being a Tower of London guide, to Richard III, to a hardboiled egg, to Mother Goose in a splendid finale.
This play, which was enjoying its world premiere run as part of Lytham Festival, and the performance from Royle deserve a far wider audience.