THE panto season hit the audiences' funny bone big time in Oyster Theatre's hugely enjoyable version of Aladdin at Walkerburn Hall last weekend.

It wasn't a question of "He's behind you!", more an affirmation of "They are here and they're dancing their socks off."

That's just the chorus (average age 10). The players gave as good, in fact better than good.

Coupled with Oyster's backroom team of makeup, costumes and props artistes, you have a small company performing like giants.

Sandy Wilson as the boo-hiss villain managed to be menacing and funny. Angus Wolfe Murray's Emperor of China was suitably royal, arrogantly dismissive of "commoners", and succeeded in turning his obsession with cutting Aladdin's head off into a farce, rather than a reminder of Middle Eastern atrocities.

Daniel Askew and Arran Houston as the scooter cops perfectly judged the comedy, despite crashing their scoots in the last show and causing unintentional hilarity. Abbie Nisbet's genie was so effective with her pyrotechnics that she set off the smoke alarm on Saturday night, such was the power of her magic.

Skye Houston's Princess was a picture and Aishling Bradford's Aladdin framed their illicit passion with calm dignity. As for Harry Wilson's pet panda who could not be controlled, ask Wishee Washee (Alistair Moody playing Alistair Moody). Their scenes together were some of the silliest.

However, the star of the show was Ryan Cochrane's Widow Twankey, a magnificent example of natural talent blended with comic genius. His scenes with Sandy in the final act after the Widow has drunk the love potion was side splittingly funny.

Oyster Theatre's Wizard Of Oz last year was their best, according to anecdotal tittle tattle. This year's Aladdin surpassed it.

The word on the street is that director Sue Tickner has done it again. And that's without the help of the genie.