This one is posted by Isabel, with thanks to Audrey

"Carmen" meets "Robin Hood"


The first scene after the interval was reserved for a dance for the youngest cast members. Sometimes the music linked with the theme of the show; always something amusing and unexpected happened...

Here's a memory from Audrey, who for many years was chief choreographer for the panto.


For Robin Hood in 1979 they chose music from "Carmen" for the "littlies" to dance to. To provide the music Audrey brought a portable record player along to rehearsals; in the event there was no other way to play the music, so at the performance Stage Manager Steve was given hurried instructions as to which track to play and when to lift the needle from the disc. The scene started off beautifully with the littles enjoying their dance; as the music got faster they kept pace. Unfortunately in the rush, or perhaps transported by the stunning coreography, Steve forgot to stop the music, which got faster ...... The little boys got hotter......and redder......but they kept dancing.

I wasn't there so can't tell you where the girls were nor how the dance ended. Maybe someone can remember....?

Two scenes from "Robin Hood"

Here are three photos of a scene from Robin Hood in 1979; from the mother of one of the cast, who remembers much grumbling about rehearsals from her daughter; and of the producer, "long-suffering Nick Mellersh," saying year after year, "this is the last one, never again."
A recent chat with her daughter was quite the opposite; her memories are of the fun in being involved with the panto. Nostalgia is a wonderful thing! (Does Nick agree??)
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Yes nostalgia is a wonderful thing. I can even remember these four or five with affection. That's Emma force as (I would guess) a Gypsy queen. Giles Gardner as the sheriff of Nottingham, Jane Gibbons as the wicked queen. Emma is foretelling some terrible doom for the Sherriff and the Queen I would guess. (Jane Gibbons' performance was a tour de force though I remember going mad with her as she told every other member of the cast what to do.) Philip Payne is the soldier. In the dance scene with the tambourine, the Randall girls are on the left. They discovered the babes in the wood under a gooseberry bush "There ... I told you that's where babies came from!". Nibby Saunders on the right of the dancing picture was Will Scarlet.

Giles Gardner lives in Paris and works as a film editor for Merchant Ivory. Nibby lives in Lyndhurst and will do your building work. So keep him busy everyone. The rest I am not sure of.

PS note the wonderful tree flats professionally done from some time in the 1930's. Now sadly no more.
Nick Mellersh


Probably the most uncomfortable moment the panto ever saw

It has to be told, and it's probably best if it's told by me (everyone's too polite to mention it, it seems).

I had a scene with little John Dunn, who was probably only 5 or 6 or not much older. It was all rather too complicated for the poor thing, and it had always been a disaster in rehearsals because he'd always forgotten his words. We just went into it hoping for the best.

The problem was, my lines relied on him putting his lines in (otherwise what I said didn't make proper sense). Of course, under the lights and with all the intense pressure of being out there in front of the audience, John's lines went to pieces (and I rather went to pieces as well). Having had no experience of ad-libbing [I probably would have had to say something like, "Well, what you seem to be thinking is..., and so what I think is..."] I was rather stumped as to what to do.

So there were John Dunne and Justin Mellersh staring into the audience with great bulging eyes, mouths dry, throats attempting to make those gulps of dread, hoping that, after gulping, something would magically come out of their mouths to get them out of it all.

But no. Just silence. I remember thinking, 'I can't believe that this is really happening. I don't think there could be anything worse that could ever happen to me.' And this thought kind of made me go into a blind stupor (I'm sure if my friends read this they'll exclaim that this is somehow rather familiar).

The poor audience was just as uncomfortable as me and wanted it to sort itself out as much as I did. There was embarrassed laughing, and uncomfortable shuffling (I can't remember if there were silly comments, but probably).

Backstage the answer to all of this was clear: go straight into song that was due at the end of the short scene anyway. They kept saying this, trying to prevent their increasingly urgent whispers turning into shouts.

And good old Mrs. White was already getting ready for this, tinkling lightly away at the rather protracted introduction to the song on the Piano (this was her way of hinting strongly). And this was the problem. I assumed that I had to wait for her to go through all this introduction before I could start to sing (in actual fact, she was such a natural that she could have plunged into song to accommodate me at my whim). So there'd already been silence for an uncomfortably long time before she started playing, and now I was waiting for her to get round to the proper beginning where I could start singing. Of all my life, that combined time must have been just about the slowest that time has seemed to run.

Well, eventually it did come round to the beginning of the singing part of the song, and you don't know what a relief it was for me to sing it.

For a long time after that, you can probably understand that I didn't want to see anyone in the village. And probably a lot of them didn't want to see me (or that was how I felt).

Justin Mellersh

Review from the Echo or Lymington Times


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He (or she) was quite right. It was too long - by far. Success the previous year had gone to my head. But there were some great performances and some wonderful scenes. Nick

Robin Hood I
Task: Runner beans which had to double up as rifles!
Solution: map and photo tubes three to four feet long, were squeezed almost flat, the ends stapled and fixed with masking tape and then painted green, which every night transferred itself to all who touched them.
Note - no this was for Jack and the beanstalk!
Sally, your memory is vey sharp. Geoff gave me this piece to type in for Robin Hood. Perhaps he can be tempted to respond online this time? Isabel

Sally Hayward memories
Having only just turned up in Minstead the year before in time to be witches and villagers in crowd scenes for Snow White, we were very excited about having named roles in Robin Hood. Living next door to Nick and Jeannie, we didn't have any choice anyway!! My sister, Marcelle, was Maid Marion, and I had the well known role of "Meg" - Maid Marion's sister!!! We sang "Sisters" together, which is I think a Beverley Sisters song. The other thing which I remember clearly was the obligatory dance scene. Audrey Saunders somehow organised about ten of us into a dance in one of the forest scenes, the music was very trendy - Summer Nights, from the film Grease that had just come out - and I think that there are photos somewhere of us at the end of the dance, each with one arm in the air a la John Travolta.

Sally Hayward