WHAT do you get if you mix one of the greatest children’s stories of all time with modern cultural phenomena, and add a finishing soupcon of silliness, flying and acrobatics?

This year’s Anvil panto, that’s what, and it’s the best in years, two and a half hours (that includes the interval) of first rate performances, songs and jokes, led by its director Pete Hillier. Not only has he crafted a brilliant show for all the family, but he also puts in a terrific bouncily charismatic turn as Smee, pratfalling and mugging for all he’s worth.

An experienced children’s entertainer, he knows that you can make children really laugh by appealing to their baser instincts, and so his Peter Pan is full of silly voices, fingers up noses, toilet humour, pranks and a joke about Pooh – Winnie, that is. Believe me, it’s all the finer for it!

His fantastic cast seem to be having a ball throughout, and the standard of performance is exceptional. Amanda Salmon is a wonderful surly and stroppy Tinkerbell on roller boots, a super contrast to the demure and delightful Wendy (Zara Warren) whilst Julia J Nagle plays both Mrs Darling and the Mermaid, managing to make each role completely different. Shireen Jordan is a perfect Tiger Lily, too.

They’re certainly not let down by their men, and that includes the first-rate Lost Boys and local young stars Harrison Cohen, Reuben Overton, Ashley Piper and Benjamin Macken, who alternate the roles of John and Michael.

The boyishness of the adorable Ben-Ryan Davies means he’s terrific in the part, despite not having a strong singing voice – in comparison to the amazing vocals of the other performers – and the little girls in front of me giggled coquettishly at his every move.

The super soundtrack takes in contemporary tunes such as I Believe I Can Fly, Flying Without Wings and the soundtracks of Pirates of the Caribbean and Tangled, plus older music from Mary Poppins, Elton John (Crocodile Rock, of course) and original work such as Hook’s hilarious diatribe about children, which begins Nice Boys and Girls I Really Hate Them.

The hook-handed captain (a magnificent Gary Turner) makes a fab entrance X Factor-style – complete with multiple plumes of fire – and from then on, is as dastardly and debonair as anyone could wish for.

And as if all this weren’t enough, there’s a noteworthy Nana (Freddie Mason) costume, an enchanting scene where they fly over London, a brilliant super soaker moment, a cracking rap, Peter’s flight above the audience at the end of Act One, and the Nitwits’s (Andy Rothwell, Paul Cox and Freddie Mason) captivating acrobatics display with Smee towards the conclusion.

To top it all, the proper story and its pondering of growing up, friendship and sacrifice, remains paramount throughout.

This panto is worthy of a big round of applause and come its conclusion, you’ll be in no doubt that all the big star names in the world couldn’t have done a better job.

*Tickets are available from the box office on 01256 844244 or online at anvilarts.org.uk.