Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Archive Interview • DAN LENO • Stewart Permutt • 2003

Mr Dan Leno as Mother Goose Poster
Mr Dan Leno as Mother Goose Posterby FirstNightVintage

Excerpt from an interview with the actor, director and playwright, Stewart Permutt.

[One project] on the go is a play about the Music Hall legend Dan Leno for the actor Jonathan Kydd. Leno was the forerunner of them all and has been the inspiration for so many comedians and actors in the last hundred years. The first draft of the play is nearly completed. ‘It’s quite complex because I didn’t want to do a conventional biog play about Dan Leno — “and then I appeared here and then I got married and then I did this and then I did that” because I think that’s boring. And does anybody care about that? What they care about is him and his work, how he died.’

He goes on to tell me that he has taken one or two liberties with Leno’s life. ‘I’ve made up things and instances that didn’t happen but could have happened. And I say it’s “inspired” by the life of Dan Leno. Eighty percent is the truth and twenty percent of it isn’t. And I know there are aficionados and people who might not like that but it’s given me leeway.’

He has spent time listening to the few available recordings of Dan Leno at the British Museum. ‘I’ve used quite a bit of his [stand-up] material which is terribly funny if you hear recordings of it but if you just see it written out, it doesn’t look funny.’

Leno was famous for his pantomime appearances alongside Herbert Campbell at Drury Lane under the management of Augustus Harris but it is this material, Stewart says, that does not work for a modern audience at all. ‘So I’ve written my version of what I think it could be like. I’ve sort of cheated it and rewritten it so it’s more acceptable for an audience, still with the flavour, a Victorian feel.’

Only Leno’s stand-up routines remain sacrosanct. ‘Otherwise,’ says Stewart, ‘the audience won’t know what he was like. And that is word for word with every dot and comma what he did. And that has to be, I said to Jonathan, absolutely accurate otherwise you can’t say you’re being Dan Leno.’

Leno’s contemporary, the actor-manager Herbert Beerbohm-Tree, once said to one of his leading ladies, Constance Collier, that if Dan Leno played Richard III, he would be the greatest Richard ever. Stewart has taken this as his basic premise. ‘I said, well, let’s pretend he did. He wasn’t gay, he wasn’t camp, he wasn’t Danny La Rue,’ he adds, stressing that Leno played his women, his dames, ‘absolutely for real’. ‘He didn’t put on a silly voice or anything like that. He just played them terribly truthfully and if you hear recordings of him, it sounds like a little lady.’

Sarah Vernon © 2003

Originally published on R&V 12-05-03

2 comments on “Archive Interview • DAN LENO • Stewart Permutt • 2003

  1. beetleypete

    The great tradition of ‘The Dame’ has been somewhat overshadowed by female impersonators who became popular on TV. There was a lot more to Dan Leno of course. However, what passed for entertainment in 1901 was very different…

    Best wishes, Pete. x

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Improbability Archivist

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, Doctor Who,

WCH On This Day

Working Class History anniversaries every day


Yoga classes and aromatherapy products in Andalusia, Spain.

LOIS BRYAN Photography and Digital Art

History And Other Thoughts

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...


theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Catherine Meyrick

Historical Fiction with a touch of Romance

Secret Diary Of PorterGirl

The everyday adventures of the staff & students of Old College


Subject to change.

The Müscleheaded Blog

"Nothing Exceeds Like Superfluous Jejunity "

Women of History

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Jon Danzig's World

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

The pallet Junkie

Hand crafted furniture

Dreaming Reality

If Existence is a dream, let us dream perfection....


Exploring best practice and research in sexual violence. A loud voice in the fight against victim blaming. Written and Managed by Jessica Eaton, Doctoral Researcher in Forensic Psychology

Teagan's Books

Now available: "Murder at the Bijou - Three Ingredients I"

Padre Steve's World...Musings of a Progressive Realist in Wonderland

Musings of a Progressive Realist in Wonderland

The History Woman's Blog

Just another weblog

Art by Jess Miller

sculpture and artwork


by Jack Monroe, bestselling author of 'A Girl Called Jack'

surprise saffron

relishing in life's surprises, delighting in food, travel, art

Wish I Were Here

Journeys Through Place and Time

Doron Art

A journey into my world of Painting

Taylor Revert

An anything-and-everything blog from life's number one fan

Random Facts in History

History is complex, massive, and full of strange events and coincidences. Learn with me as I hunt those out and bring them into the light.

Life with an Illness

Sharing my chronic illness journey, while helping others. I spread awareness, love, and positivity along the way!♡

The poor side of life

Exposing the unfair treatment of jobseekers, the horrors of Universal Credit, unfair sanctions and heinous treatment of claimants at Ashton under Lyne Jobcentre.

Art by Vicky Paton

Canadian Abstract Artist

Politics and Insights

Public interest issues, policy, equality, human rights, social science and analysis


Supporting the rich amateur theatre scene on the Isle of Wight

Robin Hoskyns Nature Photography - Blog

Images and stories of nature, science and conservation.

Sarah Ditum

Writing, etc.

Jots from a Small Apt.

Largely @ Liberty

Rethinking Life

Art and the philosophy of life

Croatia, the War, and the Future

Ina Vukic - Croatia: people, politics, history, economy, transition from communism to democracy

lynz real cooking

lynz real life

Pride's Purge

an irreverent look at UK politics

Pride's Purge

an irreverent look at UK politics

Tropical Affair

Observations of the illusion through the eyes of wonder...

The home of writer Barney Hoskyns' books, poems, photos and more.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Blog magazine for lovers of health, food, books, music, humour and life in general

I didn't have my glasses on....

A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.

Left Handed Lottie

Drawing and painting on an ipad

Atelier 88

More than just rooms

%d bloggers like this: