THIS show has really been a panto sub-genre of its own for years, with anarchic clowns Danny Adams and his father, Clive Webb spreading water, mayhem and magic with the team while sometimes, in the background, a story gets sort-of told.

This year’s Peter Pan is a winning evolution of the mega-popular formula. The story is centre-stage – well, for some of the first half, anyway and the whole thing is more coherently punctuated with all the wowzer special effects and stunning circus action which the brand is associated with.

It wasn’t the incredible crocodile which had our two young guests quaking behind their cutlasses, but the jaw-dropping balancing (Rola Rola) act by Sascha Williams. My favourite number was the camptastic ‘No Place I’d Rather Be’ from Dame Rita (Chris Hayward) and her rather charming male dancers, the whole thing looking like a Duran Duran video of Indiana Jones and the last Rio Carnival.

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The script is very funny and the attitude to the story has the same questing spirit for improvement as that applied to the format. We have Wayne Smith as Tiger Billy, a smart new send-up buddy for Danny. Peter Peverley’s Starkey gives a glorious intro to Steve Arnott’s Hook as ‘Sovereign of Dunston’s Heed-the-Baals’ among other fab anti-accolades. Peverley brings a charming complexity to Starkey and Laura Evans similarly is full-on spoilt-child as Tinkerbell, but hers was the only costume that wasn’t that magical.

The sets are great, alive with stunning lighting, pyros, flames. Producer and Director Michael Harrison has with his team created a monstrously good show this year. It’s Variety for the 21st Century and beyond, the pantomime pinnacle of Special Effects for generations gorged on Cinema CGI. We were totally Hooked. I Believe in Pantomime!

n Till Sunday, January 21. Tickets 08448 11 21 21 or www.theatreroyal.co.uk

Sarah Scott