IT is not until the opening scenes of the first pantomime of the season that I can truly feel Christmas has begun.

This year, the festivities began at Billingham Forum, where Snow White and her Seven Dwarfs are currently treading the boards.

Pantos, this reviewer believes, should give centre stage to tradition and this performance will leave no audience member disappointed in that respect – from the outrageous outfits of the comedy dame to the regular bullying of audience members and the enthusiastic ‘it’s behind yous’, almost all of the staples were pleasingly present and correct.

But these modern times do call for modern touches and so we welcome to Billingham the Magic i-Pad - lowered from the ceiling and framed in glitter and fanfare, this is the 2019 version of the fabled magical mirror.

Accompanied with groan-worthy Tinder and Siri jokes, this tribute to technology is also a great foil for one of the stars of the show – a scene stealing Katy Allen as the wicked Queen Lucretia, resplendent in black glitter and furious that Snow White’s getting swiped right more than she is.

A touch of celebrity comes in the form of Ben-Ryan Davis, previously of Hollyoaks and Waterloo Road, now clad in tights and hamming it up as Prince Benjamin.

His vocal talents are notable and help to bring to life some of the pop hits scattered throughout the show – but nothing he or Gemma Gibbion’s delightful Snow White can do in terms of lovey-dovey duets will come close to beating the efforts of the lively Seven Dwarfs as they perform a high spirited Madness medley in one of the highlights of the show.

Speaking of highlights, my long service as a North-East panto veteran tells me that an appearance from the Harper Brothers will definitely be one of them.

The evil Queen Lucretia may describe them as ‘cheap Chuckle Brothers’ but the siblings – in all of their unbridled, chaotic enthusiasm - are unfailingly the best bit of every panto I’ve seen them in and if they are cheap, they definitely deserve a pay-rise.

Of course the main players would be nothing without their dancers, musicians and set designers, all of whom deserve honourable mentions here. Their efforts combined mean that anyone trying to pick a panto this year would do well to pay a visit to Billingham Forum.

Until Sunday, January 5. Visit for tickets or call the Box Office 01642 552663.

Joanna Morris