The stars of the Gala Theatre pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk have brought Christmas cheer to poorly children at the University Hospital of North Durham.

Families on the Treetops ward were treated to a visit from the panto characters, including Jack, Silly Simon, Fairy Moonflower and Princess Jilliana.

Stanley mum Tora Fearon was on the ward with her two sons, three-year-old Andrew and five-year-old Blake.

She said: “We have just arrived this morning for Andrew to be seen and it’s brilliant having the panto cast in because it keeps all our minds off things. The kids love the attention too!

“The cast have been great with both the boys and the kids have really enjoyed it. Blake has seen the panto with his school but Andrew is a bit young to go to the theatre yet, so it’s lovely for him to have been able to have a bit of that panto fun while he’s here.”

The Treetops ward at the University Hospital of North Durham is the paediatric unit for the area, treating children from babies up to 18 year olds. Janet Hughes is Ward Manager and said: “At this time of year we do get lots of children in and it is lovely for them to have this distraction – it really brightens their day.

“But it’s not just the children who benefit, the parents enjoy it too. When you have a poorly child on the ward, the days and nights can be very long for parents and a visit from the panto cast is so colourful and fun that it breaks the monotony for them. And of course it’s also good fun for our staff who work very hard – it’s a real talking point and a bit of fun for us all.”

Jack and the Beanstalk is the Gala Theatre’s fastest-selling show to date and has garnered rave reviews from the press, who billed it as “a total joy for the whole family” and “one of the best pantos you’re likely to see this festive season.”

This hilarious family tale sees Jack (Jamie Brown) fall in love with Princess Jilliana (Sarah Boulter), but she has been kidnapped by the evil wizard Fleshcreep (Neil Armstrong). With the help of the good Fairy Moonflower (Sally Collett), his brother Silly Simon (Paul Hartley) and his mother Dame Trott (Paul Dunn), Jack must climb a giant beanstalk, storm a castle in the clouds and defeat an angry giant if he is to win the heart of the Princess and bring Jack prosperity to his home town.

Jack and the Beanstalk runs until Saturday 7 January. Tickets priced from just £10 can be purchased from the Gala Box Office in person, by calling 03000 266 600