Thursford Christmas Spectacular

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All-singing, all dancing Xmas show in the middle of nowhere? Not my scene, or so I said till friends invited me to the Thursford Spectacular in Norfolk

Our tickets included the Fantasy Grotto, absolutely crammed with beautifully lit-up trees, and charming tableaux of animated reindeer, polar bears, elves, Santas with sleighs of gifts, all immaculately presented. We were like children, tempted to stroke the "breathing" models. The Thursford collection of steam engines and fairground rides was cleverly incorporated.

A quick lunch in the café, then on to the show, a huge barn transformed into a winter wonderland. The wide stage held a Wurlitzer organ, full orchestra, 30 dancers in gorgeous costumes, and 50 talented singers who performed a selection of religious and secular Christmas favourites. There were excellent soloists and virtuoso instrumentalists, a skilled juggler, a funny comedian, and above all, the constantly changing lights which were the best I've ever seen, both on stage and filling the high barn around the audience. The flat auditorium slightly restricted the view of short visitors; some tiered rows were available, though not included in our inclusive break.

What made the whole experience so enjoyable was the colour and beauty and the sheer vivacity of the performers. It was uplifting, surprising, emotional without false sentiment, and the ending was particularly poignant on Armistice Day, as white doves flew over the audience to the sound of "Peace on Earth".

More practical features included good parking, ample toilets, disabled access, a "village" of festive shops, and café- style refreshments and helpful staff. Most of the audience were Silver travellers, and many come year after year, as the content changes. It would be hard to recapture that first delighted amazement at the brilliant atmosphere. I'm a "serious" theatre-goer, and I might have missed it, by forming an opinion beforehand. Put Thursford on your bucket list!

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