Belfast Telegraph

mark little

The 51-year-old Australian actor starred as Joe Mangel in hit soap series Neighbours from 1988 to 1991. He will be in Northern Ireland this week with his new stage show, Defending the Caveman. Married to Cath, they have two sons Stone me: former Neighbours star Mark Little in his stage show. Below, as Joe Mangel

Defending the Caveman is an interesting title for a play. What's it all about?

I spend 90 minutes looking at what the caveman actually got up to and knocking down a few misconceptions about him. He's got a bad reputation for being brutish and oafish, someone who can only get a woman by banging her on the head. That didn't happen, it's all cartoon stuff. The facts are that the caveman was a protector and provider who worshipped women. I look at the cavemen and women and how they survived as a species in the wild and see if modern men and women have the same sort of thing going on.

Are you trying to defend the reputation of men in general then?

It's a term that can be used against blokes to make us sound like idiots. But it's trying to address a bit of a male crisis. Once upon a time, older men would guide younger men into what it is to be a man. But we've lost that now, we have a break between the generations. Now we see a lot of 40-year-old boys walking around. So what the play does is look at men and women as two different cultures. It's an attempt to explain men to women, and women find it hilarious. It's a great show for couples to see, which is why it has become so popular.

Have you helped rescue a few marriages along the way then?

Who knows? Laughter is the best medicine for anything. It wouldn't surprise me, but just having a good night out is good therapy.

Do you still get a buzz performing live on stage?

Yeah, it's what keeps me going. There's a lot of laughter in this and that gives a lot of job satisfaction.

Would you like to get back into television?

Because of Joe Mangel, I haven't done any TV acting. He stopped me doing all that because no one wants him in their movie, which was a bit of a bugger. So I've had to box clever and work where I can, which is in the theatre and which happens to be on the road. It's really hard work and I've been doing it for 17 years. It is wearing me out a bit, because I'm not a young bloke any more and I would love to be able to do it in a different way. But at the moment, the way the comedy circuit's been over the last 10 years, the Caveman's been really good for me. I thought after Neighbours I'd get a lot more TV work, but being an Aussie it's not easy to get into the system here and there are still those prejudices that exist.

So Joe has been a double-edged sword, he has been good for me and not good for me.

Do you still have fond memories of working in Neighbours?

Yeah, I left when it stopped being fun. I was only there for three years and it was hard work to maintain that standard and keep up the quality. But there was no work about then and I agreed to do that job for three months and then it became three years. It was all accidental, I was not meant to be famous for that!

But Joe was such a memorable character!

He was good fun, he had everything - he was a bit of a wrong 'un with a good sense of humour. He encapsulated everything that was good about Aussies, really. I tried to make him a classic Aussie bloke and that's how he came across. But he was the first SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guy) on telly - he was a single dad who had to do the ironing and look after the kids.

Why was Neighbours such a big hit over here?

Summer takes so long to get here. Watching Neighbours on the telly, it was lovely. People talked over their fences, everyone had a pool and it was sunny every day. It was like a window to another world, Britain just took it on. And it was only 20 minutes long, so it was like a little tablet of Aussie craziness every day. It was like a sitcom back then. It was character-led, like Coronation Street.

Are you still in touch with your former colleagues?

Every now and then someone will pop through like Ian Smith (Harold Bishop) or Anne Charleston (Madge Bishop). But it got too hard working with kids and dogs.

Do you miss your Neighbours pet dog, Bouncer?

He was great to work with, the best actor in it. He was very spontaneous, you never knew what he was going to do and he was loveable.

And now your own sons Jasper (23) and Angus (27) are in the business. How do you feel about that?

I feel for them because it's a different business to what I went in to, but they are artists and have it in them. The youngest wants to be a filmmaker, and the other is travelling all over the world with the show, Stomp.

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