Comedian Danny La Rue (pictured) - who has achieved legendary status as a drag-queen and pantomime dame - has suffered a stroke and cancelled all future performances under doctor’s orders. The 78-year-old returned from a holiday in Spain and collapsed. He was taken to Southampton Hospital.

One of the most famous female impersonators in the world at the height of his fame in the late Seventies and Eighties, La Rue has also been a Royal Family favourite, appearing in three Royal Variety Shows. A Christmas tradition, he has also appeared in countless pantomimes over the years; this past festive season, he played Fairy Godmother in Cinderella at the Ashcroft Theatre in Croydon.

Speaking to late last year about how Ian McKellen’s pantomime dame debut in Aladdin at the Old Vic had suddenly made the genre cool, La Rue said: “When I’m on stage at the Ashcroft in high heels and a big wig, I’m the tallest fairy in town, so I’m delighted that Sir Ian has made panto dames respectable. But it’s not about fellers in frocks. Like Shakespeare, pantos are about good triumphing over bad. If you wave your magic ward over the morality, pantomime will always be cool.”

Outside of panto season, La Rue regularly tours the UK in music hall and variety shows. He was due to appear in A Night at the Music Hall from 18 to 22 April 2006 at the Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton (for which former Hi-De-Hi star Paul Shane will now stand in). He was also engaged at the Crescent Theatre, Birmingham in June for a production of Entertaining Mr Sloane.

- by Caroline Ansdell & Terri Paddock