REPORTS are coming in of an oversized cat prowling the backstreets of a West Oxfordshire market town. More intriguingly still, he seems to be embroiled in a turf war with an army of giant rats.

Fear not though, the county’s vermin situation hasn’t quite got out of hand yet – and neither are we living through a sci-fi nightmare. It is, of course, panto season –and the fun is well underway at Chipping Norton Theatre, where Puss in Boots is taking on King Rat and his rodent horde.

The kids classic takes place in the Est End of London where King Rat and his big-toothed gangsters are wreaking havoc on the old market in Albert Square. Only one highly fashionable feline can save the day, but, he needs a sidekick and some stylish footwear.

“Our panto twist on this classic tale, set in 1950s London, is stuffed full of daring escapes, ruthless robberies and frankly spectacular car chases,” the team at Chippy tell us.

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“It will be a fast and furr-ious adventure and family friendly from start to finish – with all the sumptuous costumes, great original music and daft theatricality that only comes from the national home of traditional pantomime.”

Chippy’s pantomime is considered one of the country’s finest. The calibre of their slick professional productions are made all the more appealing by the intimate nature of the beautiful venue – with the audience almost face to face with the cast.

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To bring the footwear-loving feline to life the theatre have turned to writer Toby Hulse, whose previous triumphs include Around The World in 80 Days and Sherlock Holmes & the Crimson Cobbles, and familiar faces Anna Tolputt (playing Jack the Cat) and Rowan Talbot (playing King Rat).

They also welcome back John Terry as director.

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“Pantomime is an extraordinary British institution,” says John. “Initially totally baffling to visitors from around the world, it seems to be infused into the marrow of the bones of anyone brought up in the UK.

“I myself never went to panto as a child, and yet when I first attended as an adult I sort of knew what to do. The routines, the shout-outs, the sing-alongs – they were all there in my subconscious.

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“It’s also a unique and invaluable part of many theatre’s year – bringing in large audiences of all ages from across the community. In Chipping Norton we welcome around 18,000 people each year – three times the size of the population of the town. Without the institution of the Chippy Panto, now in its 47th year, we almost certainly would have closed a long time ago.”

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So what’s the recipe that brings people back year after year? “It varies theatre by theatre,” says John. “For us it is family friendly, laugh-out-loud funny from beginning to end, original music, original designs and costumes and no celebrities.

“The show each year is the result of between 12 and 18 months of creative ambition, exploring the possibilities of this amazing theatrical form. This year’s is a fast moving, colourful world of car chases and prison breaks, teddy boys and mashed potato fights. It is the happy heart of our year. I hope people can join us!”

Puss in Boots is at The Theatre Chipping Norton until January 12. For tickets go to chippingnortontheatre.com