IF YOU are suffering from panto fatigue and fancy an intelligent theatrical Christmas alternative you will find Theatre by the Lake's A Little Princess richly rewarding.  

These are troubled times and this thought-provoking festive feelgood tale is just the angst-soothing tonic that will warm the cockles and garner cheers and applause. 

Celebrated children’s author Frances Hodgson Burnett’s evergreen classic from 1905 has been masterfully rebooted to critical acclaim.

Like her masterpiece The Secret Garden, A Little Princess morbidly oozes Christmas and Sarah Crewe, a daydreaming cosseted 7-year-old 'daddy's girl' finds herself marooned in a dark dank Lancashire boarding school. 

This is an elegantly staged 'riches to rags' tale but there is no swooning prince for this attic room Cinderella worked to the bone by headteacher Mrs Minchin. 

This rendition conjures E M Forster, Rudyard Kipling, Charlotte Bronte and Roald Dahl with the spiteful Miss Minchin, a wicked money-obsessed headmistress.

A Little Princess is wholesome and eclectic. On the one hand a charming fable to gently wash over you and on the other a subtle political allegory.

The narrative masks the turmoil of exotic faraway India, the jewel in the crown of a jaded British Empire in the throes of extricating itself from its plundering colonial oppressor. 

It is worth noting that when Shirley Temple debuted as Sarah Crewe in the 1939 Technicolour classic the iconic godfather of Indian democracy Mahatma Gandhi was seen as a seditious nationalist.

With its deferential nod to historical events in India this updated rendition is a magical realist infusion using puppetry, dance and a sublime performance from the cast including actors Genevieve Sabherwal as Sara and Ronny Jhutti as narrator Ishan Ramdas.

This versatile examination of light and darkness, entrapment and destiny is punctuated with fine comedy moments, spiritual allusions and tantalising dance routines.  

The striking puppetry help keep this flight of fancy airborne. You will love the school cat and the mischievous mouse scenes.  

This adaptation captures all the hallmarks of the rich, subtle and discerning themes of Burness’s bittersweet fusion of English and Indian culture. 

Sara reminisces about resplendent sunshine of Shimla amid the  UV deprived Lancashire boarding house. 

The infectious enthusiasm of this downtrodden waif and stray morphs into the people’s princess empowered by her bewitching tales and anecdotes. 

A Little Princess is a complicated book to adapt to stage and retain the nuances but Artistic director Liz Stevenson has successfully nailed down what in her words is “a celebration of imagination, underpinned by the belief that stories can change the world” 

This Joyous and life-affirming family Christmas play is worth your time. 

A Little Princess Runs until January 7.