THE Newcastle Pantomime Company, formerly based at the Tyne Theatre in Newcastle, have teamed up with Gateshead Council and created the newest theatre (with lots of leg room) on Tyneside where the magic of pantomime comes alive wonderfully.

With no "adult" humour, this is a family panto in the truest sense; the fun begins from the off and never ceases.

Writer Maxie Peters (Lottie Stotty) shares dame duties with Bob Stott (Dottie Stotty) and they are brilliant together. Always laugh-out-loud, sympathetic and funny, Lottie Stotty even got a laugh when she threatened to cancel Christmas!

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The onus on teamwork and having a regular cast really pays off for this excellent troupe.

Christina Dawson as Queen Bumble has been given more singing duties this year and rises to the task admirably; Sarah Challoner (Fairy Merriweather) brings her Brummy charm to the party and is excellent while the solo songs and duets between James Hedley (Prince Berb) and Emily Swan (Princess Aurora) are delightful.

Newcomer Brian Lonsdale slots in seamlessly as Numpty Norman, the kids' best friend, and veteran Kevin O'Keefe (King Bumble) stole the talent competition with his Elvis impersonation.

Of course, these are the goodies. The drama in the story is the dastardly deeds of the wicked fairy Caraboose.

Phillippa Wilson's portrayal of Carabosse is evil personified. Her presence lit up the whole room and was the catalyst for the madcap proceedings. All supported by a live band and a strong team of dancers.

I took my two granddaughters (six and 20 months - silly names, I know. Howay, it's panto time!). They were enthralled throughout. The six year old sang and danced and was hoarse from booing, cheering and shouting "It's behind you" and "Oh, yes you are" while the youngest joined in the hand routines and had to be physically restrained from getting on the stage for the colourful wedding finale.

Word of mouth is always the best critic and, on the way out, it was pleasing to hear a group of families discussing how many tickets they wanted for Aladdin next year. The people of Gateshead now have a big league pantomime to be proud of.

  • Until December 30. Tickets at 0191-718 5440 or www.newcastlepanto.co.uk

Ed Waugh