There’s something about walking into the auditorium of the Torch Theatre in Milford Haven, a certain theatre smell that whisks me back to decades of pantos past.

This year, after a Covid-enforced absence last Christmas, I am back with my family for the Torch’s production of Cinderella.

The last time I saw Cinderella at the Torch I criticised the panto for having a heroine whose only attributes were to be pretty and nice. I am delighted to say that Cinders this year had a lot more character written in for her by Torch Theatre artistic director, Peter Doran.

This year we had a songwriting, scrabble-playing Cinderella, beautifully played by Pembrokeshire’s own Rosey Cale, whose fantastic voice made for some beautiful harmonies, especially with Gareth Howard’s Buttons; the kids’ favourite character.

Rosey maintained an energy, earnestness, and sparkle in her eye throughout the show, even when singing a slightly cheesy song about dolphins!

Other local talent starring in this year’s pantomime includes former Milford Haven School pupil, Samuel Freeman as Prince Charming and Torch Theatre volunteer and stalwart am-dram enthusiast David Woodham who played a perfect palace footman.

Of course, you can’t review a panto without mentioning the ugly sisters; Dion Davies returned to the Torch this to take the role of drag-fabulous Eugenie alongside James Mack’s Hygiene.

The pair were a delight to behold, resplendent in colour themed costumes and headwear, quick with the one liners and witty local jokes, rooting the panto in its Pembrokeshire location, not to mention a fine performance of We’re Going on Down to the Haven, which I was singing for days afterwards.

I particularly enjoyed them riffing with the BSL interpreter, who also deserves a mention for her spellbinding and energetic interpretation during the relaxed performance.

Amelia Williams, in her professional debut as the Fairy Godmother from Llanelli, and standing in as Dandini, did a sparkling job and was loved by the audience of all ages.

As usual the panto was a visual and aural feast with a splendiferous set, we particularly loved the singing gargoyles, colourful costumes, intriguing effects and more than a few earworms of songs, sung superbly by a mellifluous voices cast.

There were a couple of jokes about body shape that I would have loved to have hit the cutting room floor but apart from that, my only criticism would be more to do with the current Covid situation; I think a polite request to keep masks on if at all possible during the performance, a bit more air in the auditorium especially during the interval when most people stayed seated and an audience spread out more in the seating available would have allayed my concerns.

These are things that are easily addressed and shouldn’t detract from a welcome return to panto at the Torch, hopefully uninterrupted for generations to come.