THERE’s nothing quite like a pantomime for getting you in the festive spirit – this year’s offering from Salisbury Playhouse is a real Christmas cracker.

In true panto tradition Andrew Pollard’s Sleeping Beauty is full of colourful costumes, bright stage sets, catchy tunes, wonderful characters to cheer and boo and a sprinkling of glitter over everything to make it all the more magical.

The Main House is the perfect setting for panto. The intimate theatre brings the audience much closer to the characters on stage and it doesn’t take long for the enthusiastic cast to draw us into the story; it’s a packed house and we rise to the challenge with gusto yelling all the right things in all the right places.

King Meadowsweet is celebrating the birthday of his precious daughter Princess Rose and Nanny Fanny and Billy Bogbean – the Palace gardener – are equally excited about the big day.

But evil fairy Belladonna Bindweed, put out at being left out of the celebrations, casts a spell which will see the princess die on her 16th birthday.

Fairy Flax is determined to save the day however and changes the spell so that Rose will fall asleep instead – until being awakened by love’s first kiss.

Now all she needs to do is ensure the dashing Prince Dylan arrives on time...

It’s a great cast, with Kieran Buckeridge in particular on sparkling form as Dame Nanny Fanny.

He has the children roaring and the adults joining in as he pokes gentle fun at the audience and prances through the musical numbers in a series of outrageous costumes.

The sweet-voiced Sophia Ragavelas makes a charming Rose and Billy (Michael Imerson) and Fairy Flax (Ella Vale) are soon firm favourites with the younger members of the audience.

Everyone needs a villain to boo and hiss and Anna Stolli as Belladonna Bindweed is gorgeously ghastly with more than a hint of the Wicked Witch of the West about her as she moves menacingly around the stage in the glow of an imaginatively placed green spotlight.

Tim Treslove – the villainous Ivor G Bogey – from last year’s Salisbury pantomime Jack in the Beanstalk – is back this year as King Meadowsweet, and it’s the riotous scene with Billy and Nanny Fanny in the royal kitchens that gets the biggest laugh of the night.

Directed by Joyce Branagh and featuring great songs by Kieran Buckeridge, Sleeping Beauty is a charming treat for all the family this Christmas.