The Courtyard has truly taken flight with its 20th anniversary panto, as they deliver a magical production of Peter Pan.

It’s an ambitious choice, because this is a show that calls for considerable creativity to infuse it with a panto vibe – there are, after all, no princes and princesses destined for a glorious wedding finale, and introducing a dame into the action is a challenge that writer Lyndsay Maples and director Estelle van Warmelo have met head on, creating a memorable Ms Smee, played with warmth and enthusiasm by Philip Day in his Courtyard panto debut – rarely can a dame’s wardrobe have included both a tree and a standard lamp!

But, rest assured, all the essential ingredients have been included in this delicious panto – from sweet-throwing, oh-yes-he-is-ing and sing-alonging to the come-uppance of our baddie and a happy ever after ending. And flying of course, and perhaps a bit of bicycling ….

As our eponymous hero, panto favourite Dario Cacioppo embodies the spirit of Peter perfectly and Craig Painting returns to Hereford to play his fourth panto baddie, delivering a suitably menacing Captain Hook. He also plays Mr Darling, a man with slightly Hook-like characteristics – busy and very self important when we first meet him, but who, unlike Hook, is capable of redemption, discovering at the end the value of a work-life balance!

As always with a Courtyard panto, there’s a local flavour, and in a year when the proposed bypass has taken centre stage, reference to the impossibility of travelling across town drew a big laugh from an enthusiastic audience.

But it’s friendship and looking out for others that is the engine of Peter Pan – Wendy caring for Peter, Peter looking out for the Lost Boys, and, of course, Tinkerbell and Peter. And trust me, you won’t see a Tinkerbell quite like Madeleine McMahon’s teeny-tiny winged fairy anywhere else. If you’ve seen Peter Pan already you won’t need telling what a scene-stealer Tinkerbell is, but if you haven’t bought your tickets yet, it really wouldn’t be fair to spoil the surprise. Let’s just say that it’s a performance you won’t forget in a hurry …

As the Darlings welcome their children home from Neverland and invite the Lost Boys into their home, we’re given the perfect antidote to the divisive times we live in – as the hand of friendship and a warm welcome are extended to those with nowhere to call home, and the window is left wide open for the boy who is determined never to grow up …..

Peter Pan runs at The Courtyard until January 12. To book, call the box office on 01432 340555 or visit