Vesta Tilley as Principal Boy
Late 19th century
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Vesta Tilley, known as 'The Great Little Tilley' was a music hall star, and also a regular in pantomime in the provinces. She always played the principal boy Prince Charming, Aladdin and so on. Despite her fame, she only played once at Drury Lane, the most popular venue for pantomime, due to an argument with its manager Augustus Harris. She was contracted in 1890 to play Dick Whittington, but then the play was changed to Beauty and the Beast and Tilley was expected to spend almost the entire show wearing the huge mask of the beast. She refused to play those scenes and a stand-in performed them while she nipped next door to do a turn at the Variety theatre. She and Harris never forgave each other.