The Hawth panto should come with a warning.
And that warning would read: "Your face will ache for at least two hours after the curtain comes down."
The Hawth panto - this year's is Dick Whittington - is always a crowd-pleaser. And this year, everyone in the audience would have suffered the same side effect - an aching face caused by smiling and laughing.
This is down to everything in the show from the incredible sets, the 3D, the costumes, the incredibly funny script, the wonderful dance routines, the perfect cast and of course, Michael J Batchelor as the Dame (this year Dolly the Cook).
I don't want to take anything away from the rest of the cast but Batchelor, who has been a staple at the Hawth for six years now, is spectacular, and like a fine wine, gets better as the years go on. The costumes, the audience banter, the interaction with the other cast members - it's all pitch perfect. It's incredible to think he makes all his own costumes - and they are up to their usual standard - including one revealing surprise when they are on the beach - I will never be able to unsee that!
In previous years, the cast has always had good chemistry, but this year it seems to have stepped up a gear. Everyone has their moment and they all take it. Richard Franks as Billy is a great foil for Batchelor - and it's great news they will be the Ugly Sisters in next year's Cinderella. They have great timing and this is highlighted most in the 'spurious comedy routine about sweets'.
Charlie Brooks is menacing as Queen Rat, Gemma Hunt makes a wonderful Fairy Bowbells with her Hamilton-inspired narration, and David Ribi (in the eponymous role) and Chrissie Perkins as Alice Fitzwarren were so likeable it was sickening! Cameron Blakely (Alderman Fitzwarren) and Harri Nichols (a very athletic Eileen the Cat) were also great fun. The whole cast all play off each other brilliantly - there is not one weak link.
The show was once again written by Paul Hendy, and produced by Evolution, and the genius of this production is it has all the classic elements you want - the topical jokes (Donald Trump, Brexit and Jacob Rees-Mogg are all in there), the pun-filled cart routine (the 'Kinder' bit was a particular high), the 'legendary' bench and a glittery, happy ending - but it is kept fresh and modern with the likes of Hamilton, Taylor Swift and Greatest Showman songs included as well as the brilliant 3D. Hendy manages to fuse it all together brilliantly.
There can't be a more family-friendly, funny, spectacular show around and if someone tells me any different, I won't believe them.
For ticket information visit the Hawth's website
Running time: 2hrs 30mins approx
Queen Rat Charlie Brooks
Fairy Bowbells Gemma Hunt
Dick Whittington David Ribi
Dolly the Cook Michael J Batchelor
Billy Richard Franks
Alderman Fitzwarren Cameron Blakely
Alice Fitzwarren Chrissie Perkins
Tommy The Cat Harri Nichols
Villagers Elle Crees, Effie Rae Dyson, Tilly Ford, Josh Bamling, Jamie Jonathan, Tom O’Brien