Review: Naturally Insane! The Life of Dan Leno at Lytham Hall

A master class from Steve Royle brought the audience to their feet at the end of a live show which confirmed that Britain really does indeed have a rare talent.

Steve Royle in Naturally Insane! The Life Of Dan Reno at Lytham Hall 
Picture: Phil Downie
Steve Royle in Naturally Insane! The Life Of Dan Reno at Lytham Hall Picture: Phil Downie

The superbly-crafted play from Blackpool writer David Slattery-Christy tells the story of Victorian Music Hall superstar Dan Leno who dies in a London asylum, aged only 43, ultimately

unable to distinguish between his stage persona and his real self, George Galvin.

The episodic nature of the drama vividly portrays the torture in Leno’s head. His violent moods switch constantly from confusion to lucidity, from extreme vulnerability to top-of-the-bill

showmanship. In the first half particularly some scenes make uncomfortable watching, as the audience quickly realises this is not just Steve Royle doing stand-up comedy.

Whether imagining being Shakespeare’s Richard III, adlibbing with the ladies of Ansdell Women’s Institute, juggling Mother Goose’s golden eggs or forgetting that his daughter died at six

months, Royle is supreme.

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Put simply, he is Dan Leno. His physical movements, facial contortions, slapstick skills and ability to mimic complement a complete range of regional accents, tones and volumes.

This revised version of the play, first staged at the 2018 Lytham Festival, is now enhanced by the talents of an experienced cast who enable Royle to play off them strongly.

Comedian Phil Walker in his first serious role brings plummy vowels to the eccentric Dr. Savage, whilst Janet Maher’s cockney accent and patient manner as Nurse Kelly who looks after

Leno in the asylum is impressive.

Laura Nicol, as Leno’s wife, sings poignantly amidst his mental chaos.

Neil Roland brings perfect timing and clarity of diction as Leno’s brother Henry and Tom Lister makes the most of his cameo scene as theatre impressario Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree,

using his height, matinee- idol looks and slow sonorous tones.

A perfect midsummer evening ended as Leno, now dead but ever Mother Goose, eloquently reflects on his role in the history of music hall and panto before leading his audience in a

boisterous knees up as a finale.