In what is presumably either a fit of megalomania or one of those funny coincidences, Lyric artistic director Sean Holmes has directed virtually every production at his theatre this year. This is a good thing: 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' was irreverent genius; 'Morning' a staggering blast of nihilist energy; 'Desire Under the Elms' troublingly sexy.
Holmes caps off 2012 by directing the Lyric's panto for the first time, and he's done it a world of good. Gone are the slightly naff yoof culture references and the bland good guys of last year's 'Aladdin'. In come Julie Atherton's deliciously dotty Cinders, William Ellis's roguish Tory banker of a Prince Charming, and a sort of knowing weirdness that comes to a head with possibly the most meta joke of the season: a sequence affectionately parodying the blingier Hackney panto.
That said, it's not a comparison Holmes should be too quick to draw – his streamlined, slightly cerebral event can't match Hackney's for big-hearted vigour. Still, it's hardly heartless. Panto regular Steven Webb works the younger members of the audience like a pro as an archly loveable Buttons. And all ages will be wowed by a scattering of judiciously deployed special effects, courtesy of illusionist Richard Pinner and puppet-maker Cheryl Brown.