AS THE festive season approaches, dusty decorations are dragged from the attic and the country's Christmas puddings are for some reason put on to boil, South Hill Park's pantomime preparations are well underway.

This year actor, producer and writer Adam Stafford takes the reigns as director of Beauty and the Beast.

Adam has previously directed some of South Hill's most successful shows on the Wilde Theatre stage including James and the Giant Peach in 2012 and last year's Cinderella.

He sat down with Maddi Cook ahead of the premier on November 30.

This isn’t your first panto at South Hill Park – tell us about what you’ve done before and which production has been your favourite so far?

I have only directed one panto here before, which was 2016’s Cinderella. But I have directed quite a few other shows at South Hill Park. I very much enjoyed doing Oliver! during Easter last year, and Just So a couple of years before was a favourite.

What have you enjoyed most about working at South Hill Park?

The building. It has to be one of the best, and certainly one of the most beautiful Art Centres in the country, so just turning up for work is a pleasure. Also, I love all the different things going on here, from classes to theatre, pottery to art, exhibitions to live music and dance.

Why do you think the Beauty and the Beast tale has become so iconic?

Well, like any classic story, it obviously has a formula that captures the public’s imagination. In this case I think it's a love story between two people that on the face of it you would not expect to fall in love because of who they are and the circumstances of their meeting.

Do you have a favourite pantomime?

Well, Beauty and the Beast, obviously. I think there’s something about the story that really appeals to people from all walks of life, and it’s just a joy to direct.

What are your earliest memories of pantomime?

My Grandfather took me to see Cinderella at the London Palladium when I was about seven. It was amazing, they had real horses pulling the carriage on the stage, and that is a magical experience that I really wanted to build on in Beauty and the Beast.

The show runs at South Hill until January 3. Go to for tickets.