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Christmas is a contradictory time, a festival of light and warmth in the darkest days of the year. A festival of joy and laughter tinged with nostalgia over times gone and sadness for those who can’t share in the festivities.

‘The Secret Seven’, Chester Storyhouse’s first Christmas show, provided a feast of nostalgia, transporting an excited family audience back in time to Christmas Eve in post-war Britain (where a dark winter evening was brightened by trapeze artiste, the Silver Angel, heralding the start of Christmas with her ethereal song). We later warmed up in the headquarters of the Secret Seven, where, in an amusing nod to the difficulties of modern life, we watched Jack struggle to recall the complex password required to gain access to HQ. The Seven’s leader, Peter, policed password integrity with such rigour that I suspect as an adult he’s now working hard as a well-paid cyber security expert. To be honest the password really wasn’t that complex but I’m too afraid of Peter to share it with you here. The Seven, ably assisted by faithful Spaniel Scamper (a beautifully animated puppet), were on the lookout for a mystery to solve and thanks to their deductive powers and a spot of good ol’ team work they happen upon the fiendish plot of thoroughly ‘bad sort’ circus strong man and ex-con Joko, to ruin Christmas for the whole village of Cherrydale.

Throughout the twists and turns of their investigation the Secret Seven are great fun, providing something to amuse and entertain all members of the family. Each character was well developed through some very witty and revealing dialogue. The Seven, all lovingly portrayed, became very real people who we all came to care for. It’s a charming, heart-warming show: hurrah for the Secret Seven!

Although Christmas was not all warm mince pies and jollity in Cherrydale, The Bullish Joko’s kidnap of his reluctant accomplice, the aforementioned Silver Angel, brought a spot of gothic chill to proceedings.

This time last year the opening of Storyhouse was just around five months away. Since opening on the 11th May Storyhouse has already produced four critically acclaimed productions presented both at the Storyhouse main stage and Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre. Talk about hitting the ground running!

This first Christmas show at Storyhouse will hopefully be the beginning of a long standing new Christmas tradition, which the many young people who attend will no doubt look back fondly on in the years ahead.

Rating: It would be 7 stars (out of a potential 10), but Scamper woofs it up to 7.5.

The Secret Seven will be sleuthing around Storyhouse until 14 January 2018.