MIDNIGHT will soon strike for the last time in Cinderella And The Lost Slipper at the Grand Opera House, but Martin Daniels and John D Collins are loving every minute of their time in the Three Bears Productions pantomime in York.

Magician, entertainer, presenter and panto regular Daniels and veteran actor Collins – once Spike Milligan's assistant director for ten years, coupled with long sitcom service as British airman Fairfax in 'Allo 'Allo! – are playing Buttons and Baron Hardup respectively.

"I remember first performing here in 1994/1995," says Martin. "I'd got married and just come out of the West End, doing The Magic Man at the Prince Of Wales Theatre, and I came here to do an old-time variety show with Moira Anderson, Ken Goodwin and Frankie Vaughan, who was top of the bill.

"Then I did a tour with my dad [the late magician Paul Daniels] and Debbie [McGee] that played here, and they did their first ever pantomime here of course. Debbie did the last two pantomimes here with the Three Bears company, which me and the kids came to see."

Martin has appeared in a dozen pantomimes for Three Bears artistic director and panto writer Chris Moreno, including seven at the Lincoln Theatre Royal, and has a long history of playing Buttons in Cinderella. "It's the role that keeps the show moving, so I've only put a couple of magic tricks in there as I don't want to stop the flow for 'the Buttons Magic Show," he says.

John D Collins recalls appearing on the Grand Opera House stage "about 30 years ago". "It was a tour of the Ray Galton comedy When Did You Last See Your Trousers? with Linda Lusardi, Arthur Bostrom, from 'Allo 'Allo!, and the girl from On The Buses, Anna Karen," he says.

In pantoland, he has played myriad roles. "I've done Ugly Sister a couple of times, at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, and the Hackney Empire; I've played Abanazar in Aladdin, when I sang with Patti Boulaye, and now I'm Baron Hardup, a nice gentle part, two costumes and a lot of time in the dressing room. It's not quite King Lear, though I could play it like Lear!" he says. "It's always great fun to do panto and it's nice to be working over Christmas and the New Year."

John has worked once before with director Chris Moreno. "We went to New Zealand in 2014 with Frazer Hines and Su Pollard to do Annie in Auckland and Wellington for two and a half months, and we had a great time," he says.

Now he reunites with Moreno for Cinderella and all the joys of the panto season. "For a big family event at Christmas, you want something colourful and noisy, with a good story, and a pantomime has all that," says John.

Hence Martin's relish for returning to panto year after year. "Cinderella in York might be panto number 30 for me, and every time I've done it, I hear people saying 'pantomime is dying off, isn't it?', but no, it isn't. Going to pantomime is cyclical; people see it as a child, then stop going; have children, start going again, stop again; then they have grandchildren and start going again!" he reasons.

THE Grand Opera House, York, is playing host to a series of captioned, signed, audio described and relaxed performances of Cinderella And The Lost Slipper.

The relaxed show will be at 2pm tomorrow; signed and captioned show, 2pm, Friday; audio-described performance, 12 noon, Saturday. Tickets for the Three Bears Productions pantomime are on sale on 0844 871 3024 or at atgtickets.com/york