It’s pantomime press launch day at The Kings Theatre, and the venerable institution is a veritable hubbub.
This is the first time all of this year’s show’s principals have been together, and all in full costume, no less. There’s a photoshoot that literally stops the traffic in Albert Road, with bemused passers-by wondering what on earth is going on on this September afternoon. Melinda Messenger, the former glamour model who has successfully reinvented herself as a TV presenter, is one of the stars of the show. She’s playing the fairy-godmother role. And she’s joined by a few returning favourites, including Kings’ patron Anita Harris as the evil Queen Malevola and West End starring local boy, Jack Edwards as Sarah Spoilit, ex-Hollyoaks star and Gosport-native Marcus Patrick as The Huntsman. After the photos are all done, The Guide sits down for a chat with Melinda back inside the venue. ‘I’ve never been to The Kings before, and I am absolutely gobsmacked by how beautiful it is - what a gem of a place!’ she enthuses. ‘And what a fab area it is as well. I drove down thinking: “I could see myself moving here - you’ve got the seafront right there and a fab little cafe just up the road, I’m going to be spoilt rotten while I’m here.’ ‘I have been to Portsmouth, just not for work, I’ve taken the kids to the Historic Dockyards - I’ve done all of that. I did it myself a long time ago, but that was when I was about seven years old!’ There’s one member of her family in particular who’s pleased that mum’s doing the panto in Portsmouth. ‘My eldest is sea-mad and she wants to be a marine biologist - she was over the moon when she found out I was going to be in Portsmouth. Any free time I get, I think we’re going to be down the aquarium!’ Melinda first came to the public’s awareness for her modelling work during the late ‘90s, but she soon started to move into TV - she was a co-host on the Channel 5’s adventure gameshow Fort Boyard from 1998, and also had her own series Melinda’s Big Night In that same year. Since then she has been a regular on our screens, in the like Celebrity Big Brother, Dancing On Ice, and as Dominic Littlewood’s co-presenter on Cowboy Builders. She’s been doing pantos since those early days. ‘I think this is my eighth, so it’s been quite a few now - my first was back in ‘97 in Southend, and various places since, I’ve done Cinderella, the genie in Aladdin, Cinderella, the genie again, Cinderella again... I got typecast there for a while,’ she laughs. But does she ever get a hankering to play the bad guy? ‘One day - it would be really brilliant to play the baddie because it looks a lot of fun. But in both characters there’s lots in there, playing the goodie, you get to interact with the audience more and hopefully not scare the children. Hopefully.’ ‘Pantomimes are so different from anything else. There’s a magical fairytale quality about pantomime and it’s a world of it’s wonder, where anything can happen. ‘The usual rules of theatre just don’t apply you get everything happening - people chop and change lines, it feels very live and fresh, you can have fun with it, you can make mistakes and it all adds to the atmosphere. ‘It’s the one area where you can make mistakes and it’s almost expected, which does make me feel better too.’ And she’s looking forward to getting to know her fellow cast. ‘This is a whole new cast to me - which is another thing I like about it too. You get together with a good bunch of people and we all work really hard to put on a magical show which people aren’t going to forget - for all the good reasons, which is quite bonding, That’s really nice, and they seem like a good bunch.’ Could there be more acting on the horizon for Melinda? ‘I haven’t done much up to now, I’ve done a couple of films, small roles, nothing major. I just did a little brief, comedy thing for Nick Helm’s show on Channel4. There’s a few more bits and pieces in the pipeline, and it is something I would like to do more of. ‘I think it’s down to finding the right thing really, the right fit. It would be nice to do something completely unexpected and completely against type that would surprise a few people.’ Away from the TV work, she’s been busy on several fronts - launching an online property business, launching an online holistic well-being magazine, and Melinda’s also training to be a psychotherapist. ‘It’s what I kind of always wanted to do, I’ve always been fascinated by it. I started my training about six years ago. I did two years and then took a break for various reasons, but now I’m back into it. It’s the understanding of why we are the way we are, and it’s also a healing field which is something I’m very drawn to. It’s a degree course and I’ve got another three years, so it’s a long haul.’ So after the panto, what’s next for her? ‘Writing for the magazine, doing TV, it’s all ongoing. I never quite never know what I’m going to do next, and that’s part of the fun of it.’ • Snow White is at The Kings Theatre in Southsea from December 5 to January 1. Tickets from £16 to £29.50 depending on time and date. Go to kingsportsmouth.co.uk or call the box office on (023) 9282 8282.