Christmas was all sorted for Melinda Messenger well before the end of November. It had to be.
“Panto is so full on” says Melinda, “You have just got to make sure you juggle everything and get all your timing right with everything else.”
Melinda is Fairy Sparkle in Snow White at Southsea’s Kings Theatre until January 1 (tickets on kingsportsmouth.co.uk).
“I think this is possibly my eighth panto. I have done a fair few, but when my children were very little, I took a little break so that I could be around them, and then I found that they really missed having me in panto!
“When I first started, I just thought that pantomime sounded like a good fun thing to do. I didn’t come into it like Hannah (Lowther, the show’s Snow White who graduated from Italia Conti this summer).
“I came in by the back door really. I was doing a bit of TV and I got offered Princess Jasmin in Aladdin for my first pantomime, and I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing.
“But thank goodness for working with lots of professionals.”
It was a question of watching the performances all around her and absorbing the skills on display, taking advantage of the fact that pantomime is inevitably a warm and friendly place in which to start out.
“I learnt as much from them as I could. I think because pantomime is so unique, it is actually very forgiving. People are very welcoming and very prepared to help you.
“But my first performances were probably awful, looking back! I had no idea, but I had fun, and I think it is the great spirit and energy of pantomime that just carries you through. I haven’t done straight plays. I have done TV and other bits and pieces, but this is just so different. The very nature of it means that it has got to be very, very interactive – and fun!”
Melinda’s first pantomimes were before she had her children. And then she was a pregnant Cinderella a couple of times. At one point, she was actually seven months pregnant, still on stage and struggling to hide her bump.
And then the children came along, which is when you maybe start to see pantomime in a different way: “The joy has always been about seeing people enjoy themselves and making the audience happy, the fact that you are part of this special occasion and that it is all a real treat at Christmas. And for a lot of people it is the only time they come to the theatre.
“But now I have got my own children, I can see how enraptured they can be by pantomime.”
Melinda’s children are now 17 turning 18, 15 turning 16 and a daughter about to turn 14.
“And they absolutely love it. My daughter has been helping me learn my lines.”
Home is only about an hour and 20 minutes away, and if she could, Melinda’s daughter would be there for every performance.
“I think when you are on the stage, you have just got to be in the zone, and you have got to appreciate that every single show is an important show. It has to be special for the audience every time, but it is nice when someone you know is in the audience… but then you have got to put that out of your mind!”
In the show, Anita Harris is Queen Malevola; Marcus Patrick is The Huntsman; Simon Grant is Muddles; Jack Edwards is Sarah Spoilit; and Jordan Adams is Prince Valentine.