Jack and The Beanstalk, Basildon Towngate, 2015/16

The key to creating a successful family pantomime is integration with the intended audience. This is not something that can take place overnight and for the last nine years, Simon Fielding has endeavoured to create the perfect Christmas entertainment for the residents of Basildon.

As producer, director, assistant choreographer and performer, Fielding’s show is a genuine celebration of the annual tradition, bursting with good humour, occasional melodrama and characteristically lots of thrilling dance routines.

Integration is achieved not only through Brad Fitt’s tightly woven script that genuinely engages its audience but also through its use of the children. If pantomime is supposed to be a child’s first experience of theatre then Jack and the Beanstalk is unequivocally inspirational, putting young, ferociously talented dancers and singers front and centre. It’s a breathtaking experience but this is a show defined by its commitment to song, dance and laughter.

Of the adults, Sophie Ladds slips easily into the villain’s role of Desdemona the Giant’s wife, dressed head to toe in gloriously tacky outfits and sporting a clutch of young feral children on leads. Nick Barclay is a wholly traditional dame and Philip Catchpole and Catherine Hayworth make a feisty Jack and Jill.

Fielding evidently puts his heart and soul into this production but the pay-off is worth it, resulting in one of the most distinctive pantomimes in the country.