Dr. Karl has the remedy

Jonathan Laurence 31 January 2008

Alan Fletcher tells Jonathan Laurence about his role in Neighbours and the differences between the UK and Australia

You’ve toured the UK. How do you find it compared with Australia?

There’s so many more people packed into one place. The good thing about the UK is that the population’s spread out—so in Australia it’s easy to get away, but the UK’s got more charming small cities. Australia’s very similar to the UK—we think the same way, and we’ve got the same heritage. We’re both multicultural societies and have the same government—it’s a strong bond. But Neighbours is just enough of a difference.

Is Neighbours received differently?

There it’s on once a day—you watch it or you don’t. Here it’s hard to escape.

So why is Neighbours so popular?

The good thing about Neighbours is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Even when it has a strong side, it’s about the raw emotions of the people living next door to each other, and the relationships of the people on the street. Sometimes it becomes a bit more Home and Away and about “issues”, but it’s coming back to the Neighbours of old. It has a good blend of comedy in there—that’s what attracts people.

Any favourite story lines?

When I went feral, that’s was great. When Karl was a backyard farmer, I could let myself go, and have a scratchy beard. I had my rooster, as well, and you never get a better prop than a rooster.

Worst story?

When I had to jump out of a boat to save Issy, that was really hard, with the temperature of the sea. I thought I was going to perish. I said, if I have to do this again, I won’t come up. I got pretty ill.

How different are you from Dr Karl?

We have a different sense of humour, I like to think I have more musical ability. Our politics are different. I dress differently. I’m less sober. You name it.

Who’s most different from their character?

Harold. He’s an intelligent and sophisticated man with a wicked sense of humour. He’s created the strongest separate character. But he’s just left now.

Is he dead?

No—no solitary guitar at the end, no flashbacks—he’s coming back for six guest spots.

So what about when characters do come back?

I think it’s great—you get a sense the show is ongoing and the characters are ongoing. I know very little about it though—characters turn up in the green room and you say “what are you doing here?”

Why have so many Neighbours characters gone to prison?

The thing you can say is that it’s an ordinary place where extraordinary things happen. Medically the proportion of people who’ve had amnesia is well above the norm.

Who from Neighbours should have their own spin-off?

Karl and Susan. A detective series. Amateur detectives. She would solve every crime and he would think he had. Or a series where Harold plays God. Or Lou’s conscience—like his guardian angel.