AS A self-confessed grump, I would rather poke chopsticks in my eyes than watch two hours of so-called family fun on a Saturday night.

Schlepping all the way to Bromley in the driving rain was, therefore, not a prospect I relished last week and I naively dismissed the great British tradition of panto as cringe-worthy children’s fluff.

But after an enjoyable five minutes of The Churchill theatre’s production of Sleeping Beauty, something dawned on me - pantomime is simply a child-friendly drag show with less beer, an equal measure of innuendo and almost as many hecklers.

If I’d realised that important detail earlier I wouldn’t have waited almost 20 years before watching one again.

News Shopper: THEATRE REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty ****

In time honoured tradition, an ex-soap actress has been signed up to get bums on seats and this year it’s ex-Brookside babe and West End performer Claire Sweeney who is billed as the star of the show, playing The Wicked Fairy.

With her fine pair of lungs she belted out pop numbers such as Guns and Roses’ Sweet Child of Mine and Mercy by Duffy, with ample gusto.

And her devlish red frock with a seductive split up its side will have plenty of Dads wiping the drool from their chins.

But panto dame Nursie, played with dead-pan hilarity by Jeffrey Longmore, and Kev Orkian’s Chester the Court Jester were the super-glue holding the show together.

News Shopper: THEATRE REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty ****

Together they bagged the biggest laughs and kept both the children and adults smiling, booing, hissing, laughing and cheering.

The cast seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as the audience and when things went wrong - as it inevitably does and will - plenty of skilful ad-libbing kept things rolling and any rough edges to the show only added to its warmth and charm.

Shelley Anne Rivers as the Fairy Lilac was the suprise star of the night, effortlessly hitting the high notes of Sarah Brightman’s classic Time to Say Goodbye.

News Shopper: THEATRE REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty ****

Written and directed by George Wood, who also cheekily casts himself as the dashing Prince, Sleeping Beauty is not afraid to take a few risks with the comedy.

However, any adult humour jarring on families is safely disguised within a velvet cloak of camp frivolity and colourful exuberance.

News Shopper: THEATRE REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty ****

Like all good drag shows the hair got bigger, the costumes sillier and the jokes ruder as the show neared its finale. It was easy at times to forget half the audience were under the age of 10.

While not flawless, and by no means brilliant, Sleeping Beauty is still a gloriously fun night out for families and singletons alike.

So if you like your theatre as camp as Christmas, this panto not only glitters, it shimmers.

Sleeping Beauty. The Churchill, High Street, Bromley. Until January 10. 0844 8717620.