A hairy, hair-raising, action-packed adventure this Easter panto may not be, yet all the same, its crowd-pleasing mayhem and chaos bring fun and delight to individuals of all ages, sizes, backgrounds and abilities. Ongoing cheers, shouts, giggles and smiles attest to that.

Cruelly kidnapped at birth by Wicked Witch Gothel, lovely Rapunzel (played by a strictly twinkle-toed Joanne Clifton) is locked away from the world for years and years – and then some – in a tall, tall tower with a pretty pink roof. Someone needs to rescue her – and preferably a handsome prince, of course. Cue the live band with its doof-doof drums as hoarse, handsome Perfect Prince Percy (Dean Gaffney), a perfect prince plonker, rides in all the way from Walford, somewhere in the East End, on shaggy dog jokes about being Well ‘ard.

And that’s the plotline in a nutshell. As flimsy as a fairy’s gossamer wing, it provides little scope for character chemistry or real relationships to develop, but it matters not! In the absence of properly slick continuity, the munching, pop-quaffing audience rides merrily, boisterously along through songs, dances, slapstick, jokes worthy of guffaws, puns that make the soul shrivel, a quick singsong and all manner of silliness. They’re ecstatically happy to be squirted with water or hit by a big beach ball or to bag a bag of sweets, batted out far and wide by a tennis racquet. Shouting at a giant ghost has as much vociferous appeal as ever, and fine costumes, handsome set and a huge dragon never fail to charm.

The rough, foul-mouthed Northerner who glories in dishing out demonic dastardliness, villainous venom, cruel sneering and unlikely yells of “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down yer ‘air, luv!” is Kerry Katona. Formerly a blond, delightful Atomic Kitten, she’s now an out-and-out baddie, eagerly embracing her dark side and thoroughly enjoying all the boos as curly, dark-haired, wicked witch Gothel, Rapunzel’s monstrous mother-substitute kidnapper.

Nothing but lightness and brightness, though, and big winners in this show, are Britain’s Got Talent runners up Jamie and Chuck, arriving in the thin guise of Court Jesters. Young Jamie’s ventriloquism is magnificent, and his sunny, self-assured disposition ensures he charms everyone with his polished songs, jokes and relaxed repartee. Chuck, the bird in his hand, is sweet and endearing, too, while full of nothing but kindness, even though her wand’s been stolen, is Kate Salmon’s Fairy Tale in flouncy fairy garb. The audience much enjoys the busy repartee of Ryan Greaves as happy-go-lucky, slapstick-ready crowd-rouser, Wally, initially in love with Rapunzel but eventually settling for the fairy. His comedy combines well with that of Dame Dolly, Queen mother to Rapunzel, played – with bongo boobs, Welsh lilt, bright frocks, saxy sax and red trombone – by affable Phyl Harries. Now, there’s lovely!

So, as Rapunzel gets busy letting her hair down and everyone gets Walking On Sunshine, the family fun begins, bringing some memorable, in-the-moment panto joy to all. And panto joy is not just for Christmas, of course. Oh, no, it’s not. It’s invigorating at any time of the year.

Eileen Caiger Gray.

This Anton Benson Productions Easter Panto tours until June to Oldham, Rhyl, Whitley Bay, Tewkesbury, Cannock, Redditch, Grimsby, Halifax, Burnley, Blackpool, Whitchurch, Mansfield, Darlington, Runcorn, Rickmansworth, Redhill and Haverhill Arts Centre. You can find out more by following this link.