Jack and the Beanstalk, Mercury Theatre, Colchester. Until January 20. 01206 573948.

Just when you think they can't produce a better pantomime than they did last year, they go and make Dale Superville a talking cow.

For those not familiar with the Colchester theatre's end of year all singing, all dancing, all splattering production (and if you're not, you should be), Dale is a regular feature with some suggesting, if he were ever to leave, then a similar disaster might befall the panto as if the ravens were to leave the Tower of London.

Again he is one of the many highlights of Jack and the Beanstalk and much credit must go to writer, and former Mercury artistic director, Daniel Buckroyd just for having the idea of getting Dale to be Daisy the Cow in the classic fairytale, although in the Mercury he's Day-Z, the down in the hood rapping cow.

When he stands on stage looking sad that his family might have to sell him, it's acting of the highest quality that Dale doesn't need to say a single word - he has us in the palm of his hand, sorry hoof!

Alongside Dale, we can thank the panto gods the Mercury have back the Dame to top all Dames, Antony Stuart-Hicks, whose wit is so sharp I'm surprised the stage isn't split in two.

You could see he was pleased the 'grown-up' shows had started as he let fly one gag after the next, sometimes not even pausing to take a breath.

Carli Norris, who made a very impressive debut at the Mercury in last year's show, has also returned neatly slipping into a very different role as a ditsy Fairy Godmother in training, loveable, sweet and very funny.

Another familiar face was Ignatius Anthony who was utterly devilish as the baddie Fleshcreep. I don't think I've ever heard a more vocal audience towards a bad guy before and a lot of that was down to Ignatius' revelling in his wicked ways.

And let's not forget the junior chorus, who were spot on with their choreographed numbers, and of course leads Craig Mather as Jack and Madeleine Leslay as a rather feisty Jill. Their duet was a proper West End moment, not surprising as both have appeared on that grand stage.

There were minor quibbles. I'm not sure about the Star Wars theme half way through and some of the musical numbers were perhaps not as tight in previous productions. I'm sorry but Money (That's What I Want) just doesn't go with Do You Hear The People Sing from Les Miserables.

And I would also lose Madeleine's wig.

That said this is a terrific show with absolutely stunning sets, incredible costumes (Fleshcreep's in particular), and a giant that doesn't fail to impress along with some rather neat theatrical tricks that will keep you guessing right to the end.