Berwick Kaler is a British actor most famous for playing the dame in York Theatre Royal's annual pantomime, which he also writes and directs. He has been awarded the freedom of the city, and in 2002 received an honorary degree from the University of York. Having grown up in "the slums of Sunderland", Kaler left school at 15 to seek success on the London stage. He got taken on at Dreamland in Margate to learn his trade. He has had TV roles in such shows as The New Statesman, Crocodile Shoes, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and Spender as well as steady theatre work. However, it is his role in the York pantomime that has won him the most acclaim.
Many pantomimes in recent years have relied heavily on celebrity guest stars and risque humour. Kaler's pantos reject this and hark back to a more traditional form of pantomime. Kaler comments: "I want everyone to laugh at the same joke". Kaler's central role in writing, producing and directing has led Dominic Cavendish of The Telegraph to call him the "panto's biggest asset and its biggest liability." Kaler has assembled a cast of actors who regularly return to the panto.
Towards the end of each pantomime at the Theatre Royal in York Berwick Kaler throws Wagon Wheels, as one might a Frisbee, to the audience, as well as handing out a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale to a father seated in the stalls.