It began as a small production put on by A-Level students, and has now become a Christmas tradition. The OSO Pantomime has grown in popularity since it started five years ago, and this year’s show, Sleeping Beauty, is expected to be the largest and most ambitious one yet. The show’s past director, Joel Coussins, discusses corny jokes, audience interaction, and the importance of making fun of Barnes…

Why do you think the OSO Pantomime has been so successful?

People love a pantomime: it wouldn’t be Christmas without one! The corny jokes and bad puns are impossible to resist. Everyone involved with the show – the cast, crew, and staff at the OSO – puts in all their effort, making it very high-quality. The Pantomime itself is only an hour long, which makes it ideal for young children, but if audience members come to the OSO before the performance, they can go to the Christmas Market for face-painting, Santa’s grotto, and many other festive treats.

What is it about pantomime that is so universally appealing, from ages 2 to 102?

There is something for everyone. You have the slapstick jokes and the musical interludes for the children, and then the light innuendo and highbrow jokes for adults. And of course there’s the audience interaction – everyone loves that.

Speaking of jokes, do you think that it’s fair game to make fun of Barnes and its residents within the Pantomime?

Absolutely! I’m a local boy born and bred, and you have to be able to laugh at yourself. The key to the jokes that we make is that we are always laughing with the audience, not at them. It is harder to be offended by good satire, so we avoid cheap shots (or at least keep them to a minimum…)

What is the most rewarding aspect of staging the Pantomime?

We are very happy to provide inclusive performances of Sleeping Beauty to local audience members with disabilities, as part of Activity Station. It is great to put on a show that is not only entertaining but beneficial to the community.

What is the future of the OSO Pantomime?

We love the Pantomime and want to carry on doing it for as long as possible, but considering that the people involved in it are no longer students and now have proper jobs, I am sure there will come a time where we will have to pass it on to the next generation. I can’t wait for that tradition to continue after me – I’m sure that one day I’ll be bringing my own kids along to the OSO Christmas Panto!

Sleeping Beauty is taking place at the OSO Arts Centre, Barnes. The show is selling out quickly but there are currently tickets available for performances on the 15th, 16th and 20th December. To book tickets, click here or call the OSO Box Office at 020 8876 9885.

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