The Oxford Playhouse Christmas panto has begun its yearly residence and its sensational production of Jack and the Beanstalk proves that even when you are at the top of your game you can still get better.

It features all the traditional panto essentials – a good fairy, evil baddie with quirky henchmen, a lovable hero and a pretty, yet resilient, heroine. The sets are superb, the costumes excellent, and the whole look of the show is lavish.

For this production, Steve Marmion has written a smart and witty script, which includes all the favourite bits of the story plus some up-to-date inclusions. In panto tradition there are lots of topical jokes for the grown-ups – gags about Brexit, Trump, etc – sprinkled through the scenes without detracting from the main plotline. The cast all have a great sense of fun that makes the most of this banter.

You can’t have a panto without a dame, and this show has the best in Paul Barnhill’s Dame Trott. Funny, endearing, and a bit saucy with energy levels at maximum throughout. He played the audience to perfection, within minutes we were eating out of his/her hand – literally true during the throwing of sweets into the auditorium!

The other principals were also very strong. Rebecca Lucy Taylor was not only a beautiful Fairy Nuff, but also very athletic, with a remarkable head for heights. But she was almost outdone in the glamour stakes by the hilarious Amrou al-Kahdi as chief baddie Judy Hench with sidekick Harry Co’vert (Alesandro Babalola). There were lots of excellent pop songs that had been given neat twists by musical director Gabriel Chernick to fit in perfectly, which got the audience singing along. The dance numbers were brilliant. Hats off to choreographer Stuart Rodgers and also to the cast who didn’t miss a beat in the vigorous and exciting big routines – even though they were singing their hearts out at the same time. There was nothing wanting in this high-class production, and more to praise – including a remarkable coup de theatre towards the end which is amazing. The verdict from my friend Ollie, seven: “Fantastic.” His brother Jamie, four, added: “The Giant puppet was a bit scary.”

As it was a dead ringer for Donald Trump, I would have to agree. 5/5