It's that time of year again when families fill the Wyvern theatre looking for two hours of festive silliness, fun, music, and entertainment and this year's Swindon pantomime certainly delivers on all of the above. 

Headlined by The Chase's Anne Hegerty, who is joined by Swindon panto royalty David Ashley and Britain's Got Talent finalist impressionist Paul Burling, as well as a supporting cast of both young and old talented musical theatre performers - this year's show is Beauty and the Beast. 

The story is pretty much as you'll remember it from the Disney classic, but adjusted slightly for pantomime.

The Governess plays an amalgamation of the classic pantomime fairy godmother and the witch in Beauty and the beast who curses the bad-mannered prince to spend the rest of his days looking like a monster. 

She holds the whole thing together with her fourth-wall-breaking narration and even delights with her own unexpected solo song that will have many people questioning if it truly is the same person who delights in crushing people on quiz shows 

And instead of animated household objects, the Beast's servants are hapless Dame Fifi (Ashley) and her son French Frank (Burling).

This pair are standouts. They work so well together as a comedy double act. There's one scene involving a some plastic sheeting, a bucket full of water, and some mops that devolves into pure, brilliant chaos - just when you think it can't get any sillier, it does. 

This Is Wiltshire: The Wyver Theatre's Beauty and the Beast pantomimeThe Wyver Theatre's Beauty and the Beast pantomime (Image: Wyvern Theatre)

But fundamentally it still tells the story of Belle getting herself trapped in the Beast's abode with the pair unexpectedly finding themselves falling in love, with all of the magic and wonder you'd expect. 

Gaston is another standout, backed up by his trusty and devoted friend, aptly re-named Lydiard. He perfectly captures the smarminess, charm and arrogance of the iconic villain and almost, almost makes him likable. 

The show has it all, fun sets, well-performed pop songs, classic panto bits, plenty of slapstick, and lots and lots of heart and warmth. 

The outside or 'real' world right now is a pretty stressful place full of money worries, war, and a seemingly never-ending list of political and natural disasters. 

But during pantomime you find yourself surrounded by a room full of people who all know the score. You join in, you shout, you sing along, you clap, you boo, and you see children having the best time ever, and all of a sudden all of that other stuff fades away.