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Fresh from her all-action stint on this year’s Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins, Melinda Messenger will be more than ready to put Poole panto audiences through their paces playing Spirit of the Ring in ALADDIN at Lighthouse this Christmas. 

The former TV presenter and glamour model, who now works as a psychotherapist, can’t wait to tread the boards again, especially in a place she knows and loves. 

“I’m really looking forward to coming to Poole,” she says. 

“I used to come down quite frequently with my friends in my late teens/early 20s when we first learned how to drive. I grew up in Swindon so we weren’t a million miles away and that was our destination – the Harbour and Sandbanks beach. 

“In fact, one of my closest friends has just recently moved down and so she’s very happy I’m coming to Poole and has been singing its praises.” 

Melinda was offered the part after her Aladdin co-star Ionica Adriana put her in touch with Chris Jarvis, who is writing and directing the show as well as appearing as Widow Twankey. 

“Ionica and I have worked together in pantomime before and we had a really lovely time together – she’s awesome. She put me in touch with Chris and the way he described how things work at Lighthouse and how the show is constructed and the ethos and the values of panto, just sounded so lovely.  

“It’s all the things that align with how I like to see it. Spirit of the Ring works with the Genie to help balance the Genie out and give him a bit of guidance in the right direction.” 

After reducing her TV work, Melinda retrained and now works as an integrative psychotherapist and dreams guide providing talking therapies to her clients, so returning to panto will be a real change of pace. 

“Oh, it is a total change of pace,” she laughs, “but I like to keep a balance in life, and this is very different to my other work. I hear there’s a really good atmosphere in Poole for panto, which is so important. If the cast and crew are having a good time that energy translates to the audience, and they pick it up.” 

Spending so much of her early career in the full glare of the celebrity-driven media spotlight has given Melinda a unique insight into human behaviour and motivations. Does that help her work as a psychotherapist? 

“As a therapist you draw on your life experience and I’ve definitely had a lot of very different experiences, but that’s only one part of it. My role as a psychotherapist would be to help somebody look at something that is going on for them maybe to understand why it’s happening and how they might uncover and develop the qualities they need in order to change that and live a life more fully aligned to themselves.  

“That sort of perspective shift usually happens as you get a bit older and you’re able to recognise where the gifts were. It’s so funny how often something happens that doesn’t look like a gift at the time, but then later you see where the gift came.  

“That is definitely something that as a therapist I would try and create a space where that can be passed on in some way if it was relevant and helpful. You have to understand the territory within yourself before you can help somebody else work out their own.” 

The celebrity whirl of the 1990s and early 2000s was a brutal environment and not for the faint hearted. I wonder if Melinda ever questioned the choices she made in those days. 

“Not at all, there’s nothing I regret, although I always say I feel like I’ve lived about 20 lives in one!” she laughs. 

“There are lots of different motivations and different things people want from that world, but for me, I didn’t get drawn to it, it came to me and I went along for the ride… a magic carpet ride!” 

:: Written and directed by CBeebies star Chris Jarvis, who will also play Widow Twankey, Aladdin features Pantomime Award winners Andrew Pollard and Alim Jadavji, whose winning double act as the ugly sisters in Cinderella last year stole the show, as the villain Professor Pocus and Genie of the Lamp respectively. Panto newcomer Benjamin Armstrong is Aladdin with Ionica Adriana as Princess Jasmine and Bournemouth-born Josh Haberfield as the comic character Wishee-Washee. 

James Smith and Darren Reeves both return as Production Designer and Musical Supervisor respectively. 

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