When the pin went in we knew we had a hit!

Back to the photo at the top. This was Jan 17 1978. Diminuitive Jenny Gardner (baby Snow White) creeps up behind Emma Forse (the wicked queen), with a very large safety pin. With enormous gusto Jenny jams the pin into Emma's tempting bum. The audience in Minstead Hall almost fell off their chairs laughing. Suddenly we knew we had a hit. From that moment, the cast of children had the audience in the palm of their hand and the evening ended in triumph.

As we wandered around sweeping the hall at the end of the show, we were dazed and amazed. Everyone felt something had really happened that night. They were right too. Thirty pantomimes later a new generation of Minstead children are preparing to perform the 30th Minstead Panto. Dr Who this time.

Hundreds of people have been involved over the 30 years of the pantos. This is a place where any and all of you can share your memories of the old pantos, the new pantos, the tears, the tantrums and the joys we have had over the past years. I hope you'll be putting up your memories here. Emma, Jenny and all of the rest of you - what do you remember about that panto or any of the others?
Posted by Nick Feb 16 (or thereabouts)

Quarrelling fairies
My favourite memory was of the three fairies who stood in front of the curtains during a scene change to recite a poem but ended up arguing about whose line it was. I really enjoyed working on this panto, seeing new sides to my neighbours and getting to know the younger kids and the many adults who got roped in. Snow White was the only panto I was around for, I wish I'd had the idea sooner.
Lucy Mellersh

And here they are:
Left to right: Jane Biddlecombe, (Wilmur's daughter), Emma Tyrrell (now a mother of two children of her own), Louise Newland, (daughter of the chief forester, Geoff Green's predecessor)

Kate Tyrrell also remembers the fairies' altercation, when one of them said the line which one of the others was supposed to say. It ended with an argument about who was supposed to say what ..... "I was supposed to say that!" ...... and a few wands were angrily waved around before the curtains were pulled.

After their "disaster" which, of course, the audience absolutely loved, Jeanie went round to the dressing room where they were scowling at each other. "You were wonderful!" said Jeanie. They stared at her, gob-smacked.
By Nick and Jeanie Mellersh


You might have thought that people were queueing up to audition to be Prince Charming in Minstead's first ever panto. Not so! Worse than having to kiss Snow White was the thought of being seen by all and sundry kissing snow white (no offence, to Joanna Gardner there - the problem was being seen kissing a GURRRL!). So the only person Nick could persuade to be the prince was his very own son. Maybe persuade isn't the word. I think if you persuade someone, that person has to have some say in the matter.

Perhaps most painful of all for a 12 year-old boy in this role was the finale where I had to sit centre stage, right at the front, with my arm around snow white's shoulder (to make it worse, I was wearing a pair of Jeanie's not unfeminine boots). That finale seemed to go on forever. And I knew kids from school (the same school that both Joanna Gardner and I went to) were in that audience. It was like being one of the unfortunate parties in a forced marriage. I wonder if anyone has a photo showing Prince Charming in the finale of looking like he's been forced to put his arm round someone with green monkey disease.

The one saving grace of the role was being able to take the audience by surprise, not only by entering from the back of the hall (deliberately banging open the doors), but also by travelling up the hall on a skateboard (something we'd brought over from California where the family had just been for 6 months, courtesy of IBM). Not many people had seen skateboards in those times. The craze caught on in the UK sometime after Snow White had run. I obviously had quite an impact.
Justin Mellersh

Someday my prince will come..
Justin I'm 'crushed' (only joking) - the highlight of the panto was being kissed on the cheek by Justin Mellersh...I didn't wash my face for a week!! All my friends were sitting there giggling and wishing it was them. I was the envy of them all! And what a beautiful wedding dress...aaah.
Joanna Gardner

And here it is. Joanna in the wedding dress and veil with little sister Jenny in her mob cap. To the left Christine Saunders and Simon Elkins make the notorious sea weed pie which was cooked inside Simon's trousers. In the photo "iron" is being added for strength.

Missed Cue
I think it was the first pantomime I (Paul, Nick's oldest son) was asked to do the sound for the show which consisted of playing a mono cassette tape plugged into the speakers. I had got distracted and hadn't got the tape into the right place before my cue. Nibby Saunders and a few other children were to sing "You're in my heart in my soul" (a Rod Stuart song). When the music didn't come on the kids started to sing the song anyway as I frantically wound the tape to get to the right part. The music came on half way into the song and the kids sang along. I was quite embarrassed at my mistake. I remember hearing people say how brave the kids were to sing along without any music.
This may have been the Robin Hood Pantomime (1978) rather than Snow White, I can’t remember.

Paul Mellersh

The death of the pig

Just as the huntsman is about to plunge the knife into the heart of Snow White. a huge stuffed pig was thrown at him by Steve Cattel from the wings. Tony Barnes, as the huntsman, had a wonderfully realistic fight with the "wild boar" and at last forced it into submission while Paul on the sound effects tried to find the pig noises on the tape and everyone backstage was grunting and squeeling furiously. Finally Tony triumphed and plunged the wooden dagger into the stuffing, then pulled open the zip and waved the heart triumphantly in the air. Meanwhile Snow White (Jo Gardner) looked on in horror. The pig lived on in our drawing room for years - but now alas is no more. It was another Jeanie Mellersh creation of course. Nick Mellersh


Jeanie's Pantomime time diary written the day after the first pantomime

Sunday: Dress rehearsal 10.30 & went on till 2.45 about. Actual play took from 11.45-2pm, I think. I made up all the dwarves first. I'd never used stage makeup before. They looked pretty good. They had beards and moustaches and they loved it. Lucy, Selina(Dunn) and Katy (Tyrrell) helped and also Marian (Ashby). The rehearsal was really good. Sally (Mellersh) was writing the song board all the time. I watched the show and took a roll of pics. Hope they come out. Then Sally went home to to get dinner ready but forgot a key so she went to pub and got some beer and crisps. We bought Tony (Barnes) home and also Joanna (Gardner) as they had missed their dinners. ... Trouble at the rehearsal was the tape broke with the sound effects. Mrs White improvised and (???? no we won't print the name) had tantrums and told her off for playing the wrong music. We couldn't hear the quiet bits and the animals (5 year olds) as Mrs White was playing background music and drowning them.
Monday: Painted 4 scenic pics – a fat cook a silly notice and two spooky pics. This took me ages as they were about 4 ft long. ... Nick took the music script to Mrs White. ... (Wendy and George (Jackson) came round while we were out for tickets.) Spoke to Jess (then Lodge cook) and told him his seaweed pie was featured highly importantly in the panto, he may come. Issy (Roughton) had strained her punch and thrown the strainings out of the window and the chickens had all got drunk. Came home and did more panto things like Lucy did a mad recipe containing crunchy frog, slime delight, slug mousse, road rat, nettle soup. All too tired to go to bed.
The big Panto day - Tuesday Made two swords and painted white spots on Jack's taffeta undies(Jack the cooks assistant was played by Simon Elkins, Christine Saunders was the cook) . Painted dwarves shelf and mugs. Paul bought quick food and made lunch. Nick collected my parents from the station, bought choc ices and crazy foam etc., came home just in time to take me to my Tues class. ... Then Nick took me home, shopping for food for tea at Cadnam. Salad and fruit & cake for tea. .... Then Lucy and Jus came home (from Hounsdown) and we all have tea. Then I took Nick to hall then went into bedroom and made up dwarves with Ann Gardener, Silena, Lucy and Alison (Cherrof), we do OK.
6.15. We all piled into cars and carried on making people up in the surgery, then moment arrives for the play to begin and we see that the hall is absolutely full of people (200?) & more streaming through the doors. How exciting! Kids were thrilled to find their teachers and Mr Hart & Mr King were there. I went into hall to watch. It was terrific. It went like a dream. Lots of fun and lots of audience participation. Kids acted beautifully – all of them. Fairies forgot their lines and fumbled there parts much to everyone's delight. They were so sweet. George Ashby as Grumpy seemed to love acting to an audience and did lots of spontaneous little funny dwarfy gestures – really cute – as if he'd been to stage school. Jenny Gardner stole the show as baby Snow White.
She stuck a huge safety pin into Wicked Queen's bottom and run away. Justin was the prince and appeared at the end of the hall and skateboarded down the length of the hall saying his lines. There were some disgusting slimy pie making scenes and a riotous custard pie scene. Nick got a custard pie in the audience from the King (arranged but he pretended it wasn't.) Paul was working lighting scenery etc. as stage manager. Tape recorder didn't work and so all our efforts in taping pig noises and and music was in vain. Everybody really loved the show and after everyone was saying how good it was. Ken Hopkins said it was the best 25p's worth he'd had in his life. Ann Gammel (who wasn't going to go) loved it and one man was raving over it, saying it should go to London and he'd see it again and again and it's the best panto he's seen in 30 years. Some people said was there another night as they wanted to come again. We packed up and cleared up and un-madeup. We had a custard pie fight in the dressing room – Alison getting the worst of it. Later we went to the Trusty, when we came in they cheered us one by one. We had to sing the Minstead song for Mr Mills as he had to mind the pub. Peter Hog and the Lodge crowd were there, Nick's mum and dad, George and Pam & Lucy's teachers who congratulated me on it. Then we went home, drank cocoa and went to bed.