RE­TURN TO RAM­SAY ST

Who can be­lieve it’s 30 years since Neigh­bours be­gan? Now fans await March 18 when some of the ear­lier char­ac­ters will re­turn in spe­cial sto­ry­lines over a month of nos­tal­gia and cel­e­bra­tion

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TV - SHAN­NON MOL­LOY

Shoot­ings, evil plots, sala­cious af­fairs, med­i­cal catas­tro­phes, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters … if any ac­tual lo­ca­tion played host to as many dra­mas as Ram­say Street, no one in their right mind would want to live there.

But over the past three decades the famed cul-de-sac helped put the fic­tional Mel­bourne sub­urb of Erins­bor­ough firmly on the map.

While long-run­ning soap Neigh­bours has lost some of its fren­zied fandom in re­cent times, and copped a chan­nel change from Ten to Eleven, the show still boasts a loyal au­di­ence – both here and around the world.

Those fans are ea­gerly await­ing the iconic se­ries’ 30th birth­day, of­fi­cially marked on March 18, which will see a whole host of for­mer char­ac­ters re­turn in spe­cial sto­ry­lines that go to air across the month.

“We sat down more than a year ago to talk about what we wanted to do to cel­e­brate the an­niver­sary and ob­vi­ously it had to be big and noisy with a good dose of nos­tal­gia,” se­ries pro­ducer Ja­son Her­bi­son says.

Even though she died sev­eral years ago, Madge, played by Anne Charleston, is back for the party and so is her on-screen hus­band Harold, played by Ian Smith.

“It’s al­ways a cre­ative chal­lenge to bring a dead char­ac­ter back to life,” Her­bi­son laughs.

“Madge is an avo­li­tion. You could say she’s a sort of ghost. She comes to Harold at a time when he needs her – she’s there for him, they go on a lit­tle jour­ney and then she leaves when it’s time.”

The ac­tors were re­united on set late last year to reprise their char­ac­ters, a pair­ing that rep­re­sents one of Aus­tralian tele­vi­sion’s most loved fic­tional part­ner­ships.

“It brought a tear to my eye, hav­ing them in the same room again af­ter 15 years and hear­ing them talk with such pas­sion and fond­ness about their char­ac­ters, their time on the show,” Her­bi­son re­calls.

Also re­turn­ing is Delta Goodrem, who rose to fame with her por­trayal of Nina on the show in the early 2000s. Like her char­ac­ter, Goodrem left Ram­say Street to pur­sue a mu­sic ca­reer.

Found­ing cast mem­ber Paul Keane, who played Des Clarke, makes an ap­pear­ance too.

In all, 12 for­mer char­ac­ters span­ning all gen­er­a­tions of Neigh­bours will pop up, Her­bi­son says. “It all hap­pens be­neath the ban­ner of the Erins­bor­ough Fes­ti­val, which goes on for two weeks.”

Se­ries vet­eran Ste­fan Den­nis, who plays the wheel­ing, deal­ing and schem­ing Paul Robin­son, ad­mits he never ex­pected Neigh­bours to last.

“I didn’t think we’d get six months, to be per­fectly hon­est,” Den­nis laughs.

“None of us thought it would be as big as it was. One of our first shop­ping cen­tre ap­pear­ances in Syd­ney was eye-open­ing. They told us to ex­pect maybe 500 peo­ple and 10,000 showed up.”

He was there on the very first day of shoot­ing un­til he left the show in 1992, be­fore re­turn­ing to the cast in 2004 to reprise his popular but dark char­ac­ter.

“I was orig­i­nally cast as this very nice, happy go lucky lad who loved his fam­ily. Then he started to get a bit dark and it just went from there.”

Paul has been shot, sent to jail, in­volved in crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity, part of das­tardly schemes and the pur­veyor of ro­man­tic scan­dals.

“There’s never a dull mo­ment – he has had a tur­bu­lent life, that’s for sure.”

Jackie Wood­burne plays fan favourite char­ac­ter Su­san Kennedy, who to­gether with Alan Fletcher as Dr Karl have been re­spon­si­ble for some of the show’s big­gest and most dra­matic mo­ments.

In Wood­burne’s view, the se­cret to Neigh­bours’ suc­cess is its light and shade – it’s not too dark, not too fluffy, but the per­fect mix of both.

“It’s the el­e­ment of hu­mour in our show that some of the other soaps don’t have,” she says. “An au­di­ence likes to have the drama bro­ken up with a few laughs.”

Neigh­bours’

30th an­niver­sary will be cel­e­brated on the street with favourites like Ste­fan Den­nis, Jackie Wood­burne, Alan Fletcher and Ryan Moloney.

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