IT’S that time of year again - oh yes it is!

Song, dance, glittery costumes, jokes so bad they’re almost good, and of course…the chance to slip in…a liberal helping of double entendres.

That’s what we expect - no - demand from our pantos, and you can count on the Courtyard to deliver.

They’ve done it again with Dick Whittington. All of the above and more, with huge aplomb - a polished and highly imaginative production, combined with excellent lead performances, and guaranteed to delight the whole family.

Every pantomime needs a strong dame and Tim McArthur is the mother of all pantomime dames, mixing slapstick comedy with painful puns and of course filthy one liners, if you take them the wrong way that is… His timing, as the narcoleptic drunk, Abby Dore, both comic and musical, is impeccable. One of the many highlights was a mock-drunken version of the 12 Days of Christmas with mangled lyrics, bordering on the surreal.

He’s ably supported by a bouncy Greg Fossard, as Abby’s son Jack Dore, as well as the suitably sweet Luke Walsh and Rebecca Hairs, the young lovers, Dick Whittington and Alice Fitzwarren.

Madeleine MacMahon and Robert Traynor are highly amusing as Puss/Fairy Bow Bells and the villain King Rat, though it seems unfair to single out too many from an ensemble performance that is slick and spellbinding, combining both professionals and local children.

In short, director Estellevan Warmelo, musical director Rab Handleigh, producer Martyn Green, writer Lyndsay Maples, and the rest of the team have come up with the perfect pantomime blend.

The dance routines are beautifully executed and the songs, cleverly re-written chart and popular hits, really shine. I really wasn’t expecting to hear a re-jigged version of Muse’s We will be Victorious, but it works - alongside Staying Alive, re-envisaged as Staying Awake, the soundtrack for Abby Dore’s narcoleptic episodes, and a foot-tapping, high-tempo Downtown - the theme to Whittington’s London.

The stunning scenery also deserves a mention, along with the wonderful costumes and seamless changes. There’s a magical undersea mini-puppet show at one point, featuring a collection of stunning luminous sea creatures that had the audience gasping.

All in all, a marvellous Christmas treat for you, and your offspring.

To book contact the Courtyard on 01432 340555

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Hereford Times: The Courtyard - Herefordshire's Centre for the Arts