IT'S A new breed of panto at Blackpool Grand Theatre this Christmas. Oh yes it is!

Robin Hood and The Babes In The Wood has taken all the usual elements of the genre and mixed in the driest wit with the cheekiest charm and genuine acting ability -- something all too rare these days.

As comic Johnnie Casson's Simple Simon (don't know why he's in it but hey what the heck!) so rightly said of Jonathon Morris as he flounced off stage: "He's a proper actor you see," and it shows.

Marvellously Machiavellian, former Bread star Jonathon is smarm personified as the evil Sheriff of Nottingham with more than just a touch of Alan Rickman.

Add to that Tom Bright's fabulous Fanny The Nurse, Alex Lovell's exemplary Robin Hood and Matthew Linus Hunt and John Peate as bungling burglars Bill and Ben. The tale is simple if a mish-mash of every fairy tale you can think of. The Sheriff's nephew and niece Jack and Jill (a wonderful Adam Beresford and Michaela Masterson) will inherit a fortune and the money-grabbing guy wants it for himself so he has the unbelievably inept robbers Bill and Ben kidnap them. And Robin Hood is called in to save the day. Okay?

Then throw in lines to the audience like: "I hate you because you're all thick and ugly", a futuristic fairy godmother (Aimi Macdonald) complete with mobile phone, plus the fact that every single member of the cast really works hard and you're on to a winner.

Kids will love the water feature, clapping song and some strange costumes and adults will enjoy superior acting, a decent script and probably the rather old schoolgirls in the classroom scene not least Matthew Linus Hunt.

UK Productions take note -- using Tom Bright as a director works.

Robin Hood and The Babes In The Wood also features Barbara Jackson School of Dancing and Tiptoes Theatre School pupils and runs daily at Blackpool Grand Theatre at 2pm and 7pm. For tickets from £7 call the box office on 290190. Group discounts available.

Pictured is Johnnie Casson with the children.