The annual Swindon pantomime is one of the highlights of the Wyvern's calendar, and over the years the theatre has played host to a wide variety of artists including film star Britt Eckland, TV actor Nigel Havers, soap star Lorraine Chase and this year's famous name Adam Woodyatt from EastEnders.

Britt came to Swindon with her chihuahua, Tequila, in 2007 to play the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, Nigel Havers, was King Rat in 2014 and Lorraine Chase was the evil Carabosse in Sleeping Beauty in 2009. Adam is no stranger to Swindon having played Chambers in Snow White in 2015, and Silly Billy in 1989 in Mother Goose.

Derek Aldridge, the Wyvern Theatre's Director, said: “I have been working in theatres for 24 years and pantomime is the most magical time of the year. I love seeing new audiences get excited by live performance and the realisation dawn that they can get involved in the show by booing or cheering!

"Particular favourites at the Wyvern include seeing the best Dame in the business, David Ashley, captivate Swindon audiences and watching the delight of the audience when Adam Woodyatt called Snow White ‘Cinderella’ on opening night a few years ago.”

The curtain rose on the theatre's very first pantomine the same year it opened in 1971 with a sell-out run of Dick Whittington and His Cat.

On September 7 1971 the Queen and Prince Phillip came to the town to officially open the theatre, which was named after the mythical beast called a Wyvern. It was the emblem of the kings of Wessex.

The second panto was Cinderella starring Sue Holderness, aka Marlene in Only Fools and Horses. Sue was back in the town for the recent Swindon ComCon at the Steam Railway Museum.

The 1960s pop icon Jess Conrad made his first appearance in Swindon panto in 1982 when he played Robin Hood in Babes in the Wood. He was back again in 1996 as Prince Charming in Cinderella along with another firm favourite in Swindon, Bernie Clifton with his ridiculous ostrich.

The Peter Pan of 2010 had Paul Nicholas of TV's Just Good Friends fame hooking in the crowds in the iconic role of the infamous villain, while in the 2017 version of J M Barrie's famous story it is Adam strutting the stage as Captain Hook.

Wyvern's Marketing Manager, Laura James, said: "One of the best things about panto for me is seeing children’s faces when they arrive and when they’re inside watching, and hearing their excitement (and they’re screams of ‘it’s behind you!’). For many children panto is their first experience of live theatre and that’s so magical to see.”

Former Doctor Who, Colin Baker, became a familiar face at the Wyvern, first in Jack and the Beanstalk (1998) and then Dick Whittington (2002). Comedians such as Matthew Kelly, Keith Chegwin, Bernie Winters, Jimmy Cricket and Timmy Mallett have also booed and hissed their way on to the Swindon stage.

Laura said: “I remember my first Wyvern panto being Jack and the Beanstalk, many moons ago. I do remember being scared of the giant, but I was just completely spellbound by the experience and absolutely loved the songs, the silliness, the magic and the abundance of audience participation. I’m now in my mid-thirties but you won’t find many people who will still scream and shout and sing as loud as me when watching panto. I’m now enjoying introducing my little boy to the same traditions.”

The Swindon Advertiser's own mascot Alfie the Alligator won a part alongside Willy Wyvern, the theatre mascot, in the 2003 panto Goldilocks. The same year local radio presenter Howard Taylor took to panto. The late Sandy Martin, much loved presenter on BBC Radio Swindon was in the 1999 version of Snow White, and BBC Radio 1 disco jockey, Tony Brandon, came to the town in Jack and the Beanstalk in 1977.

Home-grown stars have also trod the boards on a regular basis over the years including founder of the Kentwood Show Choir, Sheila Harrod, who played Dandini in 1984's Cinderella and Pollyann Tanner, who runs the Tanwood School of Performing Arts. Pollyann was Maid Marion in 1987's Babes in the Wood alongside Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan. She also appeared in Snow White in 1993, played Dandini, in 2001's Cinderella, and took the title role in Dick Whittington in 2008.

Laura said: “Panto is our absolute favourite time of the year here at the Wyvern. After what is always a year-long campaign, all of the theatre staff get so excited when the time finally comes for the cast and crew to arrive for rehearsals and for the set to be built. Everyone is involved in panto in one way or another and it really brings us together as a family. The whole building is buzzing and when we open with the first performance, Christmas has arrived!”

The only year since it opened that the theatre did not have a panto was in 2006 due to a complete £1.3m refurbishment when asbestos was removed from the auditorium and the theatre all spruced-up.

In 2007 designer Gudrun Sigridur Haraldsdottir created a striking contemporary coloured light installation for the exterior, entitled Link and the theatre opened its doors once again that summer.

Peter Pan flies in to Swindon for each panto performance until Sunday, December 31, 2017 and tickets are from £20.50 to £28.50. For more details or to book call 01793 524481 or visit - Flicky Harrison

Pantos from the beginning:

1971/72 – Dick Whittington and His Cat

1972/73 – Cinderella starring Howell Evans and Sue Holderness

1973/74 – Dick Whittington starring Ian Lavender and Helen Shapiro

1974/75 – Aladdin

1975/76 – Mother Goose starring Patsy Blower

1976/77 – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

1977/78 – Jack and the Beanstalk starring Tony Brandon

1978/79 – Cinderella

1979/80 – Jack and the Beanstalk

1981/82 – Aladdin starring Bernie Winters and Tim Swinton, Jackie Pallo, Jimmy Thompson and Anne Sidney

1982/83 – Babes in the Wood Starring Jess Conrad (Robin Hood) & Norman Vaughan (Merry Norman)

1984/85 – Cinderella starring Sheila Harrod (Dandini) Roger Dean (Ugly Sister Ruby) Don Crann (Ugly Sister Sal) and April Walker (Prince Charming)

1985/86 – Aladdin starring David Griffin (Wishee Washee) & Don Crann (Widow Twanky)

1986/87 – Jack and the Beanstalk starring Johnny Ball

1987/88 – Babes in the Wood starring Peter Duncan (Silly Billy) & Bruce Montague (Sheriff of Nottingham) & Pollyann Tanner (Maid Marion)

1988/89 – Dick Whittington starring Andrew O'Connor (Idle Jack), Michael Groth (Dick Whittington) & Peter Denyer (King Rat)

1989/90 – Mother Goose – Starring Adam Woodyatt (Silly Billy) and Chris Harris with Terry Hall and Lenny the Lion

Adam Woodyatt and Lenny the Lion Wyvern Panto Flyer

1990/91 – Aladdin – Starring Floella Benjamin (Aladdin) and Bobby Gee

Floella Benjamin Wyvern Panto Flyer

1991/92 – Cinderella – Starring Matthew Kelly (Buttons)

1992/93 – Jack and the Beanstalk – Starring Trevor Bannister (Dame Trott) Mark Franklin (Jack) Hugo Myatt (Igor the Henchman) & Scarlott O'Neal (Jill)

1993/94 – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – Starring Brian Hibbard (Herman the Henchman) Dave Lynn (Queen Morgiana) & Danielle Carson (Snow White) & Pollyann Tanner (Fairy Godmother)

1994/95 – Dick Whittington – Starring Jimmy Cricket

1995/96 – Aladdin – Starring Timmy Mallett (Aladdin)

1996/97 – Cinderella – Starring Jess Conrad as Prince Charming and Bernie Clifton as Buttons

1997/98 – Babes in the Wood – (Charles Vance Productions) Starring Paul Leyshon (Robin Hood), Hugo Myatt (the Sheriff of Nottingham) and the Roly Polys as the Merry Men

1998/99 – Jack and the Beanstalk – (Charles Vance Productions) Starring Colin Baker (Dame Durden). With Rod, Jane and Freddy

1999/2000 – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – (Charles Vance Productions) Starring Jacinta Stapleton (Neighbours' Amy Greenwood) as Snow White and Paul Ladlow as the Wicked Queen. Also featured Mike McCabe and Sandy Martin (BBC Radio Swindon).

Jacinta Stapleton Wyvern panto flyer

2000/1 – Aladdin – (Charles Vance Productions) Starring Aleetza Wood (Home and Away's Peta Janossi) as Aladdin, Geoffrey Hinsliff (Coronation Street's Don Brennan) as Widow Twanky, Bobby Dazzler as Wishee Washee and Juliette Kaplan (Last of the Summer Wine's Pearl) as the Empress of China. Also featured Tweedy & Alexis as Ping and Pong.

2001/2 – Cinderella starring Emma Willis (Cinderella), Bernie Clifton (Buttons), Pollyann Tanner (Dandini), Paul Mead (Baron Hardup)

2002/3 – Dick Whittington starring Geoffrey Hayes (Simple Simon), Pollyann Tanner (Dick), Hugo Myatt (King Rat), Colin Baker (Sarah the Cook).

2003/4 – Goldilocks and the Three Bears starring Vicky Binns (Goldilocks), Howard Taylor (Ringmaster), Ross Davidson (Dame Dolly), Amanda Sandow, Alfie the Alligator and Willy Wyvern

2004/5 – Jack and the Beanstalk starring Juliette Kaplan (Fairy), Paul Bradley (Fleshcreep), Jo Martell (Jill), Daniel Boys (Jack)

2005/6 – Peter Pan starring Steven Pinder (Captain Hook), Daniel Boys (Peter Pan), Jonah Cook (John Darling), Aaron Jenkins (Michael Darling).

2007/8 – Cinderella starring Britt Ekland (Fairy Godmother) and Tequila her Chihuahua & Ross Hunter

2008/9 – Aladdin starring Shaun Williamson (Abanazar), Neal Andrews (Wishee Washee)

2009/10 – Sleeping Beauty starring Lorraine Chase (Carabosse), Ceri-Lyn Cissone (Sleeping Beauty), Edd Post (Prince Harry)

2010/11 – Peter Pan starring Paul Nicholas (Captain Hook), Richard Vincent (Peter Pan), Pearce Barron (John Darling), Thomas Snowball (Michael Darling)

2011/12 – Cinderella starring Keith Chegwin (Buttons), Saskia Strallen (Cinderella), Adam King (Prince Charming), Alex Young (Fairy Godmother)

2012/13 – Aladdin starring Keith Chegwin (Wishee Washee) David Ashley (Abanazar) Suzie Chard (Fairy)

2013/14 – Jack and the Beanstalk starring Keith Chegwin (Silly Billy), David Ashley (Dame Trot), Jennifer Greenwood (The Fairy)

2014/15 - Dick Whittinton starring Nigel Havers (King Rat), David Ashley (Sarah the Cook), Lucy Kane (Alice Fitzwarren)

2015/16 - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs starring Adam Woodyatt (Chambers) & David Ashley (Nurse Nelly)

2016/17 - Cinderella starring Adam Thomas and David Ashley