AFTER so many months, it felt fantastic to be back in a theatre for a live performance – feeling that excitement before curtain-up at what might unfold on stage in the next hour or so.

And, as ever, the ever professional Highcliffe Charity Players did not disappoint.

In their 50th anniversary year, the group staged their production of summer panto Treasure Island, with theatre-goers of all age flocking to the Regent Centre in Christchurch to enjoy a bit of song, dance, comedy and – of course – audience participation.

Having missed the panto fun at Christmas, this was the perfect show to re-open the live performance season at the venue.

With an impressive ship set, pristine, brightly-coloured costumes and the most enormous smiles from the entire cast, this one-act show was full of joy from start to finish.

Treasure Island follows the courageous Jim as he sets sail in search of buried treasure, joined by his outrageous mother, his prospective bride Felicity and her father the Squire. The gang are pursued by the dastardly Long John Silver and his dimwitted sidekicks, who are determined to have the treasure for themselves.

There was a lot packed into the hour and 15-minute production, including several slick, upbeat song and dance numbers, plenty of thigh slapping and booing, as well as the obligatory audience dance routine.

John Luke Greenacre as Jim Hawkins and Ellie Tripp as Felicity carried the storyline along with unshakeable confidence, while Mark Ward had just the right amount of villainy (ie, the kids were booing, but not crying!) as Long John Silver.

Sidekicks Rosey and Gilly, played by Georgina Smith and Pete Whittaker respectively, had the most brilliant comic timing. Even with a couple of hiccups – which I secretly hope for in a panto as it only adds to the enjoyment – were carried up with aplomb.

Anyone feeling put out that they missed out on their dose of theatre family fun at Christmas should get aboard the good ship "Hispaniola" between now and Saturday, July 31.

Theatre is back!