Once Upon a Time in a far off kingdom – the Cass Sculpture Park, north of Chichester, actually – 54 young actors and musicians cast their spell over their audience as they enact seven Grimm fairy stories.

Chichester Festival Theatre Youth’s open-air promenade performance wove through the ideal woodland setting, with the audience being led by the full cast and the excellent band of musicians to various locations in the park. The familiar stories of Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel and Rapunzel were joined with the lesser known tales of Hans My Hedgehog, The Goose Girl at the Spring (with echoes of King Lear), The Three Snake Leaves and The Juniper Tree.

Many follow themes of gory deeds, treachery and cruelty to children but each Gothic tale is told with such clever invention and humour that the shudders soon turn to laughter. Even the grisly song My Mother Cut My Head Off is received with guffaws galore.

The show’s success owes much to the fine work of the Ensemble as they support the principal actors through clear narration and swift character changes. Among the principals Kai Terry is suitable regal playing two kings as well as a comic sea captain, whist Connor Read brings dignity to his two fatherly roles. But it is the villains that steal the show. Hal Darling is a chilling Wolf and the Devil whilst Lucy Tebb’s Witch contends with Megan Bewley and Freya Collins, as evil stepmothers, for vileness. Not to be outdone Grace Lyon gives good account as a murderous princess.

Once again Dale Rooks and her creative team have created theatrical magic that not only enchants first time youngsters but also delights us older theatre goers. Eamonn O’Dwer’s atmospheric music heightens the action and provides the accompaniment to excellent chorography from Georgina Lamb.