Pobby and Dingan are missing. The whole town has been enlisted to search for them. The only problem is – they’re invisible. Lightning Ridge is the brand new show from local children’s theatre experts, Catherine Wheels. Based on a book by Ben Rice, it tells the tale of the Williamsons who move to the outback in Australia from the polite people and pony clubs of their hometown in England, in the hopes of finding their fortune by discovering a prized opal in the mines. It’s a culture shock for the whole family but eight year-old Kellyanne is comforted through five long years of her dad’s fruitless searching by her imaginary friends.

Pobby is six foot seven and loves Violet Creams. Dingan is shorter and has the biggest opal you’ve ever seen in her bellybutton. The 8,051 other people who live in Lightning Ridge get used to seeing Kellyanne about town with her two friends but her brother Ashmol teases her mercilessly. Until the terrible day that Pobby and Dingan go missing and Ashmol decides it’s time to take action.

This is charming, delightfully inventive storytelling with a bouncy, buoyant script. There are lots of props – look out for the magic desert boots – beautiful sound and lights (Emma Jones) and some use of projection, all expertly orchestrated by actor Gill Robertson. The show is intended for children aged 8 and over and held the attention of this audience of younger ones for fifty minutes.

It’s kind of a spoiler to say the story is ultimately about dealing with grief – specifically, about a family dealing with grief – but it’s no Monster Calls-style nightmare. It’s so sensitively done that the children in the audience took it in their stride. The adults got off less lightly: the lady (with her unperturbed daughter) sat behind this reviewer said crossly as the lights came up and we wiped our respective eyes: “honestly, I thought this was a show for children!” Lightning Ridge scoops up all the ages and leaves them feeling like the world’s a better place with Catherine Wheels in it.