Britain’s Dame Race: Who Will Be the Next Pantomime Superstar?
In contemporary society, there is a growing awareness of negative representations of minority groups that undermine equality. The pantomime genre is the most popular and most traditional form of theatre in Great Britain. However, pantomimes tend to contain harmful stereotypes of minority groups, for example, its stock character, the pantomime Dame. The pantomime Dame has been under fire for potentially portraying a negative image of women and transgender people. As the arts industry in Britain aims to improve Equality, Diversity, and Inclusivity (EDI), it is necessary to investigate the problematic representations within its largest contributor, the pantomime. This research explores what barriers theatre practitioners face in their attempts to diversify representation within contemporary British pantomime through the Dame character. The qualitative research employed in-depth one-on-one interviews and a focus group as methods to survey the theatre practitioners. As the research took place during the COVID- 19 pandemic, the interviews and focus group were conducted over Zoom. The study showed that many issues lie within the lack of consensus on what the pantomime tradition and what a Dame entails. Additionally, theatre practitioners are limited by the audience expectations, the genre’s rigid model, a lack of diversity within the sector and within broader influential, authoritative positions.