There's nothing quite like a home-town show and for local boy Josh Haberfield it doesn't get much closer to home than appearing in panto at Lighthouse... he couldn't be happier about playing Wishee Washee in Aladdin at Lighthouse this Christmas.
“It’s my sixth professional panto playing the comic role,” says Josh, who grew up in Sopley and cut his theatrical teeth in local am-drams before a BTEC at Poole College’s Jellicoe Theatre paved his way to Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.
“I think the comic role happened by default by not quite being tall enough for the leading man and enjoying the cheeky nature of it all. I love it, but I’ve never loved that dash driving back home to my family on Christmas Eve, having our Christmas Day, then a really early Boxing Day away. Christmas Day is quite a big time for our family, as it’s a rare opportunity we all get to hang out together. So, for me, it never really felt like an option to stay away at Christmas.
“I thought what would be really fun is if I could get panto at home and, lo and behold, here we are. It will be really nice this year.”
As well as seeing family and friends this Christmas, Josh is also looking forward to a reunion with a former tutor from the Jellicoe.
“I’ve just found out that Jo Michaels, who taught me at the Jellicoe, has been cast in the show as Princess Jasmine’s mum, the Queen. Jo really helped me out getting into drama school at 18 years old and I’ve not seen her since so it will be really lovely to work with her.”
Josh has spent most of this year on tour in the award-winning Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story playing Jerry Allison, the drummer in Holly’s band The Crickets, so panto will be a change of pace for the talented actor musician.
“I worked for a company that did rock ‘n’ roll pantos where all the actors would play all the instruments, but over the last couple of years I’ve really enjoyed playing just the role and not having to run and grab an instrument.
“That said, it’d be alright if I get to play some drums – it’s always good to show off!
Josh trained in Musical Theatre, but drumming remains a huge part of his life.
“I always loved it and had lessons throughout secondary school. My Saturday job as a teenager was working in a drum shop in Boscombe, which sadly isn’t there anymore, called Classic Drums. The BTEC course at the Jellicoe was only three days a week so the rest of the time I was working at the drum shop and picking up work playing with function and originals bands.
“Then I went to drama school and thought I’d put my drumsticks down, but after graduating one of my first auditions was for an actor who could also play drums and now, I’d say about 80 per cent of my work has been because I also play the drums. It’s amazing how it has led to quite a little niche career.”
Josh is also passionate about paddle boarding, so much so that when the acting world shut up shop during the Covid lockdowns it became his living.
“I trained up at Easy Riders in Poole Harbour and worked freelance as an instructor there for a while, before starting my own paddle board guiding business as Josh The SUP Guide.
“Now that theatre is back, I tour with my paddle board all the time and find it’s a really good way of seeing a place from a different perspective. Paddling a town’s rivers and canals, you get to really explore it.
“And, yes, I absolutely will be getting out on the board in Poole Harbour over panto season! It’s my reset activity. Time on the water allows me to focus, relax and reconnect, which as a performer working at a high-octane rate, is super good for both body and mind, or at least it helps me!
“I can’t wait for some cold crisp early morning paddles before heading in for a two-show day!”
:: Written and directed by Chris Jarvis, who appears as Widow Twankey, with Production Designer James Smith and Musical Supervisor Darren Reeves, Aladdin features Ionica Adriana as Princess Jasmine and local actor Stephanie Walker as Spirit of the Lamp. Pantomime Award winners Andrew Pollard and Alim Jadavji, whose winning double act as the ugly sisters in Cinderella last year stole the show, are back at Lighthouse playing the villain Professor Pocus and Genie of the Lamp respectively. In his pantomime debut, the title role is played by West End actor Benjamin Armstrong.
:: Aladdin runs until New Year’s Eve. Tickets are on sale now at www.lighthousepoole.co.uk, or call 01202 280000.