The thrilling new stage version of Swallows and Amazons, which enchanted West End audiences over Christmas, is in High Wycombe this week, delighting long-time admirers of Arthur Ransome’s celebrated children’s story, which dates back to 1930, and earning new fans for it too.

Number me among the second group: during a childhood enlivened by the activities of William Brown, Billy Bunter, James Bigglesworth (‘Biggles’) and — pre-eminently — the Famous Five, I never found time for the four-strong Walker crew and their adventures aboard the Swallow. This compelling production shows just how much I was missing.

Of course, any reader, while revelling in the thrills and spills of the plot, will be obliged to do without the visual and musical delights supplied by this show, which began at Bristol Old Vic and is now on tour in conjunction with The National Theatre.

At its helm is Tom Morris, co-director of the NT’s huge hit War Horse. Working with him as director of movement, as on War Horse, is Toby Sedgewick. Between them (and with designer Robert Innes Hopkins) they fashion a feast for the eye. The spectacle includes huge flapping cormorants (with bin-liner wings and hedge-clipper beaks) and a brilliant, near-life-size representation of the pirate vessel of ‘Captain Flint’ (Greg Barnett) at whom gleeful young members of the audience are invited to pelt ‘rocks’ in a rumbustious climax to the action.

Meanwhile, the excellent songs of Neil Hannon are expertly performed by the main cast members and an onstage band (musical supervision Sam Kenyon) who also take on various supporting roles — literally so when it comes to the lifting, holding and catching involved in this very athletic show.

Writer Helen Edmundson skilfully compresses the story in which the Walker children act out fantasy adventures ‘at sea’ during a holiday in the Lake District. The quartet, all played by adult actors, differ in amusing ways. Oldest boy John (Richard Holt), while trying to be the confident captain of the crew, is clearly just a 12-year-old at heart. Sister Susan (Katie Moore) is prim and nervous, while Titty (Akiya Henry) is all feisty boisterousness. That the youngest, Roger, over whom everyone fusses and worries, is played by the oldest and biggest of the actors (bearded Stewart Wright) adds another element to the comedy.

The two ‘Amazons’ with whom they fight and eventually team up are no less neatly drawn by Celia Adams and Sophie Waller. But I hardly think the expression “poxy pigs”, so often on the lips of these fierce sisters, was part of Ransome’s 1930s lexicon.

Until Saturday. 01494 512000 (