With panto season well and truly upon us (Oh yes it is!) we look at the gargantuan offerings battling it out across Oxfordshire – where Aladdin and Dick Whittington are holding centre stage.

Dick Whittington at the Oxford Playhouse boasts a Christmas run of 70 performances, and is well underway.

So what can we expect? “There’s a great cast, pirates, ships, King Rat the villain and sharks. Dick Whittington is on an epic scale this year,” Rebecca, aka Fairy Bowbells, tells me,

“As are the costumes,” Paul Barnhill, Dame Sarah the cook, interjects: “One of my dresses takes three people to lift on because it’s so heavy for goodness sake. One is a boat! It’s bonkers but that’s what people love and expect.”

Ricky Oakley who plays Dick Whittington himself adds: “There’s nothing like it. Pantomime is such a wonderful British tradition.

“It is classless and ageless. And if you can make the whole family laugh at different times from the grandparents to the mums and dads and the children, then you’ve done your job. I just love the ridiculousness of it. “

The Panto Young Company, made up of local children, are also being given much bigger speaking parts as fairies and queens.

“Of course it can also all go dreadfully wrong, but that’s half the fun,” Dame Sarah continues. “You just have to keep going and enjoy it. We are just proud to be part of it.”

At The Theatre Chipping Norton, we find ourselves in Egypt with an Indiana Jones-style Aladdin

“This year you will find us in 1930s Cairo in a very stylish, elegant, colonial world, with a few twists and turns along the way. It’s a nice world to be spending time in,” artistic director John Terry says.

With 18,000 people expected through the doors of the 200-seater theatre between now and January, the production needs to be watertight.

“It is quite an event,” John says proudly. “And it’s a suitably chaotic experience. But that’s what a pantomime should be. I want the audience and the cast to feel they are tumbling onwards together from the beginning to the end, riding out the story, learning the routines and songs, always teetering on the edge of control, holding on by their fingertips.

“It makes the whole experience more energetic and surprising. You just can’t be casual about it. The only way with panto is to jump on board and give it 100 per cent, going full throttle until opening night.

So what else can we expect? “The Dame is Andrew Pepper, who is back with us again and a much loved favourite. We have an original script, original music, original songs. Everything is home-made.

“And with audience participation, camels, mummies and flying carpets, expect the ride of a lifetime.”