WITH a talking poodle as narrator, a Dame that cross-dresses as a man, all set in the Cotswolds Francais, this year’s panto at The Theatre, Chipping Norton, would hardly seem your typical Christmas production.

However, in Beauty and the Beast, director John Terry and his cast serve up a feast of festive fun, with a main course of traditional pantomime ingredients seasoned with a hint of Gallic charm.

The production, telling the story of Beauty (Lotte Gilmore), who meets and falls in love with handsome Prince Christophe (Rowan Talbot), who is then transformed into Beast by jealous witch Malabelle (Basienka Blake), is a very British take on the French fairy tale.

Led by the energetic Matt Pinches as Chipie, a talking French poodle and Billy Riddoch as Beauty’s excellent, no-nonsense Ma, the cast skips ably through the catchy songs, clever rhymes and nicely-judged audience participation.

Squeezed onto the small stage, the costumes and sets are colourful and inventive. Writer Ben Crocker has done a great job in creating a pacy, well-told panto, that delights the audience, young and old. The show, including interval, flashes by like one of those high-speed TGVs so beloved of the French.

With only 2,500 of the 16,000 tickets left unsold, anyone seeking a traditional Chrismas panto would be well advised to show similar urgency in contacting the box office. The show runs until January 8. For details, call 01608 642350.