PANTOMIME legend Berwick Kaler is bowing out after 40 wonderful years as York Theatre Royal’s Dame. This year’s production The Grand Old Dame of York will be his last panto at the theatre.

Berwick, who writes, stars in and co-directs York’s annual family panto that attracts audiences from around the world, said: “I’ve always put York first but now I’m putting the country first and putting myself up for the job of Prime Minister representing the Monster Raving Loony Party.”

Artistic director Damian Cruden, who has co-directed the panto for the past 21 years, said: “ Berwick has served the people of York and York Theatre Royal with absolute commitment for 40 years. He is due a rest. The pressure to recreate the panto each year is unrelenting and he takes making the ‘rubbish’ seriously. That he hangs up his boots this year is sad for us all. It is like a family here at York Theatre Royal and Berwick will be greatly missed.

“His legacy, however, is pantomime. Here at York we see it as a theatrical form of the highest order and we will continue to produce pantomime of the highest standard that is made with love, affection, care and skill. No, we can’t replace him but we can take his passion forward and honour his work in doing so.”

Berwick first put on a wig and frock for Cinderella, playing one of the Ugly Sisters, Philomena, in York Theatre Royal’s 1977 panto.

Apart from two years (1986 and 1987) when he was appearing in London’s West End, he has been York’s Dame ever since.

What has kept him as York’s Dame for 40 years is his relationship with the audience and their reaction to his pantos. “The audience have always given me the nod and the wink, saying that’s great or you’ve gone too far. Every line is written with them in mind. It’s just become a unique part of their life and my life,” said Berwick.

“This year’s original panto The Grand Old Dame of York is a culmination of every pantomime I have ever done at York in as much as it has no story, no plot – and it’s absolute rubbish.”

The Grand Old Dame of York is at York Theatre Royal to February 2.

For tickets contact the box office on 01904 623568 or go to