THE curtain has gone down on this year’s Mercury pantomime and the Colchester theatre is hailing it an overwhelming success.

More than 24,500 people went to see the show, which this year was a futuristic take on the Sleeping Beauty story.

The pantomime started its run at the start of December and included 58 performances. Along the way theatre-goers munched their way through 5,206 ice creams while waving 2,760 flashing swords and wands and flicking through 1,582 programmes.

In keeping with their policy to open the theatre to a wider audience, the Mercury held its first relaxed performance, especially for people who have an autistic spectrum condition.

Clare Moles, the deputy family support officer from Autism Anglia, who attended the performance, said: “The Mercury Theatre put a lot of thought into the performance.

“We were impressed with the quality of the visual story supplied before the performance to help people feel more relaxed about attending and to let them knowwhat would happen.

“Having areas to go to withdraw from the auditorium if necessary and having the performance streamed live to the bar area were thoughtful touches.

“It was also appreciated that people with autism were able to experience this kind of performance, many for the first time.”

While long-standing Mercury associate artist Tony Casement took on the directing duties, there were plenty of new faces in the cast. They included Stephanie Hockley, who was in her first pantomime after recently graduating from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts played heroine Princess Talia, and Jonny Fines, who played charming Prince Ronnie.

More familiar faces were Kate Copeland, a regular in the Mercury Company from 2006 to 2010, and Neil Bromley, who was in Arsenic and Old Lace in 2012.

Mr Casement said: “We had a great cast, a fantastic band, a beautiful set and we were able to offer the people of Colchester a traditional experience with a modern twist.

“One of the most successful innovations this year has been the inclusion of nine young performers from our Young Company in the show.

“They were brilliant to work with and we’re really pleased that we could help support the next generation of theatre makers to develop their skills and experience.”