Watching a pantomime at the Towngate Theatre in Basildon is a wonderful tradition for all of the family.

The show is written especially for the theatre each year and there are references to the town throughout, making it feel like the audience and cast are all part of one big panto family.

I headed there with my two daughters and we were excited to watch Cinderella live on stage.

It is the 18th panto for co-producer and director Simon Fielding at the Towngate, and this year it stepped up a gear with a spellbinding special effect – more on that later.

From the off Luke Ward-Wilkinson brought sharp comedic wit and bags of personality to the character of Buttons.

The queen of mean, Sophie Ladds, played the Wicked Stepmother with a steely grace and a stare that could turn a child into an icicle at ten paces.

Ian Hallard and Stewart Briggs were born to play the ugly sisters and the role required them to perform hip hop songs and dances, wear gravity defyingly high wigs all while cracking jokes that struck a chord with the kids and parents alike.

Alice Hoult had a soaring, beautiful, voice as Cinderella and I stole a look at my girls with their mouths open in amazement when she stepped out in her princess dress.

Jack Speck as dreamy Prince Charming also set the stage alive with his performance as did the raft of incredible dancers.

Aaron Bladen brought the swag as mischievous Dandini and had the crowd eating out of his hand as he sang, danced and entertained.

Before the interval Cinderella met her fairy godmother (also played by Ladds) and gets on on the enchanted carriage driven by an incredible mechanical horse that rose up into the air, while fake snow rained down on the audience.

The play is written with affection for Basildon and takes the mickey in a playful way. There was a huge round of applause for the well-loved theatre stalwart Simon Fielding followed by a standing ovation by the audience for the entire cast at the finale.

You may have seen panto before, but you haven’t seen the best of it until you have seen panto at Towngate Theatre Basildon.