In these times when you have to steel your nerve to watch the news, it is a wonderful relief to take some time out and watch a good old-fashioned panto!

Beauty and the Beast has everything a pantomime should have – children screaming and singing, adults snickering at the jokes that happily fly over the youngsters’ heads, a brilliant Dame Stella Artois (played by Matt Ian Kelly) and a young ensemble cast, dancing and spinning their way joyously across the stage.

The familiar story is of the arrogant Prince Adam who has a curse put on him turning him into the Beast. He has a year for someone to fall in love with him, for who he is on the inside, otherwise he will remain the Beast forever.

Along the way we meet beautiful Belle (Francesca McKean) from the village and her sister, the circus trick expert Bobbie (Victoria Barklamb).

Bobbie spins plates and juggles to hilarious effect, the children hooting and howling their appreciation. Every time the conceited Beau (Cal Plant) entered the stage, a snippet of Mr Loverman accompanied him as he gloriously flexed his muscles and hammed it up to panto perfection.

There is no obvious baddie in Beauty and the Beast so boos were used on Beau who foolishly thinks he can make Belle fall in love with him.

The song choices and choreography are spot on, with the usual lyrical changes and dance routines to accompany them.

The audience clapped along and laughed throughout.

In a cast where everyone can sing, when Beast (Henry Shine) sang it was obvious there is a great voice there.

Special mentions go to Suzi Budd, who not only plays Blossom, but who also directed the show, and to her sidekick Bud (Thomas Andrew Smith) who devised the choreography.

This is local theatre at its very best, shining a spotlight on the talent and energy that is so close by.

Beauty and the Beast runs until December 31 and tickets are available via

Claire Ritchie