The cast in happy mood

Here's the final curtain photo of the cast in happy mood. Justin (see the entry below) is in the middle above Bill Cooper. Jo Gardner, the Haywards, and Jordans are much in evidence, Wichers and Paynes too, Jordans, and lots more too. What was the name of the leading girl and who were the fellow wives. Emma Norris (now teaching at Lyndhurst pre school) and Sharon Watts were 2 of the wives

Not the most politically correct of all pantos

I kind of wonder if you'd get away with running that panto these days. I think you might get some stick from sexual orientation and ethnic minority champions. But I don't suppose suggesting that to Ron Good (the director) would have helped.

People seem to remember the jar song. Ron explained how he'd seen this done, and we just did it as best we could. It involved the three of us each popping out of the jars in turn (when we were hiding from Ali Baba for some reason) and singing the words in necessarily short, shouty bursts. I was instructed to sing my bit (the words 'are' and 'jar') of the main line out of tune, but the other two were out of tune anyway as far as I can remember (I'm probably doing them a disservice there). I'll write what I can remember of the song:

Here we are, sitting in a jar
Jammed and crammed up tight.
Here we is, getting in a tiz
Hiding in the jars all night

It's not much fun sitting on yer bum
Stuck in a jar like this
But it's no joke when you get a poke [connotation intended]
'Coz I'd have a kiss

Sophisticated stuff, as you can see.

I was one of the hopeless meanies - the poofy one called Mahanda Bag (of the other two I can only remember the name Mahatma Coat).

However politically incorrect it all might have been, I had lots of fun playing the part.

Justin Mellersh
Giles Gardiner is caught on a rope. Looks like Marcelle Hayward looking on. An impressive treasure cave backcloth probably painted by Jeanie Mellersh.
Told off for swearing
I think this is the pantomime where one of my lines was, 'them bleeding foreigners'. Very innocently and with all the gusto I could manage I yelled it out on the opening night, to be met with a loud gasp from the audience. Prior to the second performance I was instructed to change the line to, 'them blimmin' foreigners'. It was years before I understood why. Apparently there had been a large number of complaints from the audience the previous night!

Incidentally, having loved playing the heroine Snow White in the first panto, I seemed to carve out a niche for myself playing the dame in all my subsequent ones, dressing in ridiculous clothes and telling terribly corny jokes! That wedding dress really was lovely! (see Snow White)
Joana Gardner

One of the Unsung Heros of the Minstead Pantomimes: Audrey Saunders Dance Director

Audrey had that unenviable task of getting the 3 year to 6 year olds to move in a small sequence to music and have a vague relevence to the plot. In this case we were gems in the cave where Ali finds the lantern. I remember other pantomimes and episodes of dancing, prancing and jingling to several creations by Audrey. She wasn't necessarily an easy choreographer to please but she was consistent and it always pulled off in the end. Later when dealing with smallies in Romyette and Julio I cringe at the lengths we would go to make Audrey's life a misery and the amount of times we went awol!!! Sorry Audrey!!! In this pantomime we were all gems like emerald, opal, jade, silver etc and dressed up in tight tunics of that colour. I remember there were moments of lifting our hands in the air and racing to the other side of the stage, picking up streamers and twirling home again. Always an effective and special part of the pantomime line up. And as always there was that one sweet but completely oblivious child to the general goings on who would infiltrate the happy sequence and bring the house down laughing. As serious and pretty gems this was not a pleasing state of affairs and bedlam would ensue with hair pulling and cross remarks, especially from my hyper organised sister!! As a dance instructor and event organiser myself I have several classes, performers and myself to organise and prepare performances and choreographies for. These are grown women and the effort needed to keep the vision and the rigor as well as remembering the fun and bigger picture is quite a challenge. At moments I can sense I am plugging into the past and I can feel the presence (maybe abit uncomfortably but hey thats life) of Nick and how he would get so involved in the live action he would stand nearby, mouthing and gesticulating in a wild if not slightly autistic manner. Likewise the petulance and stamina demonstrated by Audrey in the thick of chaos and disorder and still being able to smile and cheerfully remark tomorrow is another day and I'm sure you'll get it right next rehearsal are still alive and kicking in my psyche. Audrey needs a mention and I think it is clear like many people back stage another I am thinking of is Steve Catell as well as others; without their endurance, fun loving spirit and ability to enter the unknown the bricks and mortar of the pantomimes would not have lasted so long. (posted by Siouxsie Cooper)

Ron Good remembers

Ali Baba the panto was directed by Ron Good who kept the shop at the time with his wife Jane. They are now living in Berkshire. Here are his memories

“Great to look back on happy memories at Minstead. Alas, some memories have disappeared from my ageing brain. But I do remember the fun with Ali Baba. Every child in the village who wanted to be in the show was given a part. Those who did not want to be in it were also given parts to keep their Mums happy ! The pantomime and all the music was written by Fareham G.P. Keith Barnard, who starred in the original production in 1981 and provided the music on his guitar.

Since those days, I have directed the pantomime at the Winter Gardens, Ventnor, l.O.W., and Shot-well Village Hall, I.O.W. and I still have the scripts and scores if anyone would like them.

The stars of the show at Minstead were all four of the Gardner children and Humphrey the camel (He of the terrible breath), There was quite a problem with the set, requiring a cave with a booby trap which lived our hero Musty into the air inside a huge net.

Somehow or other Steve Cattell managed a small team of amateur builders to overcome the problem and no-one was injured - not even in the rehearsals ! Another memory has to be the performance of Justin Mellersh as Mahanda Bag, a rather effeminate robber, who starred in the show-stopping Jar Song, when each of the robbers took turns in popping up from the jars in which they were hiding, singing each word in turn.

Lovely days and, hopefully, many more Minstead pantomimes to come!”

Ron and Jane Good

The most memorable song

Geoff’s Green’s first choice for memorable panto song has to be “Here we are Sitting in a Jar” in Ali Baba performed by a troupe of older village lads. “The sight of their heads popping up out of the jars as they delivered their single word song lines will, I think, remain with me for ever.”
A very close second, he says, was “Tragedy” in Midsummer Nights Panto. This time performed by the older girls the first rendition brilliantly performed and subsequently eagerly anticipated by the audience whenever the magic cue word tragedy was delivered.

Ron Good Adds

Following on from my last epistle, I can now remind your readers not to believe all that your informants have written about Ali Baba. To begin with it was never any mention of swearwords on the stage although I think I one or two of the back stage crew might have up guilty of the occasional verbal indiscretion. .
As for the accusation that I would have taken no action if any of the script had been politically incorrect let me tell your readers that whilst 1 was a bit of a sexist in my younger days, I have never been a racist although some of those Pakistani cricketers have nude me feel like dropping them from the fixture list ! One of your contributors (was it Justin ?) has quoted the first two verses of the Jar Song.
Here are all the verses :

Chorus :
Here we are sitting in ajar,
Jammed and crammed up tight
Here we is. getting in a tis
Hiding in the jars all night.

It's not much fun sitting on me bum
Stuck in a jar like this
And it's no joke when you get a poke
'cos l'd rather get a kiss

I have to tell there's a nasty smell
Comin' from down in here
It's niff of cheese, so strong it makes me sneeze
And I haven't washed my feet this year.

We're going to leap out, with a fearful shout
Armed to the teeth looking grim
But look at my size, it'll bring tears to my eyes
If l catch my equipment on the rim.

There's a funny bump, a sort of squashy lump
Down in my jar I fear
What worries me more, though I'm not really sure
Is has that blasted camel been here ?

The characters names were a source of some amusement, including "Mustapha Rest'' Hussel Been Goner " Abdul Ben Nevis" and "Rum Baba''.

Ron was living at Two Pictures, in London Minstead, at the time, as I clearly remember our very first rehearsal there. This was the first panto that Nick had not written and organised, Ron was a very new regime. We were ushered into his dining room, all sat around a table very formally and told in no uncertain terms by Ron, (who was normally great fun), how seriously we must take this, how hard we should work etc... This initial talking to seemed to do the trick, I'm sure Ron was just ensuring our cooperation and checking that he had done the right thing by volunteering his services!
My sister Marcelle was Ali Baba and I was Ali Baba's girlfriend, Morgiana. I was initially concerned about being a leading lady as the dreaded stage kiss was bound to happen, but as my sister was the lead, it was no problem. The Jar song with the 40(ish) thieves stole the show, but we had a good scene where we were trapped in the cave. Jolyon Gardner was Ali Baba's friend Mustapha and the 3 of us were all tied up. I think this is when the gems did their dance. Somehow Jolyon got free, but he then got caught in a net or something and ended up dangling above the stage - I have no idea how we escaped!
The costumes were great, although I was not very happy about exposing my tummy. Sharon Watts, Lisa Wilson and Emma Norris looked very glam in their outfits as the 3 wives, but I can't remember whose wives they were! My Mum (Barbara) credits herself with thinking of the third wife's name - Marsbarba - as the original script only had two wives, I think she must have been rehearsing a scene at our house (we did this for weeks before we moved onto the stage). You can see from the cast photo that both Marcelle and Jo Gardner (who played Ali's Mum) had curly hair, they had just gone to Southampton together and at great expense had perms, Marce was so fed up that Jo's worked so well and her's did not, she stuck to straight hair after that.
Thank you for putting up with us Ron, we loved it and hope you did too!

Sally Hayward