Aussie soap star crosses the globe for pantoBy Lauren Margrave
December 24, 2008
STREWTH! Anyone who does not know Alf Stewart has been walking around with earmuffs and blinders on for the past 21 years.
Home and Away fan or not, the formidable Australian soap character is famous for his use of Aussie slang, including phrases such as “flamin’ mongrel” and “holy grandpa on a stick, grandma".
Leaving Alf behind, Ray Meagher - the actor who plays the legendary misery-guts - has taken time out from running Summer Bay’s surf club and travelled halfway across the world to star as Abanazer in Aladdin at The Anvil in Basingstoke.
He is no stranger to pantomime either having performed in one in the UK every Christmas for the past 16 years. In fact it was in panto that Meagher made his stage debut at the age of 11 as the Wicked Witch in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
“There aren’t a lot of pantos in Australia and they are nothing like the scale they are on here,” he said.
“For a start I love it because I get to come to the other side of the world. People ask me why I come here in the cold but when you work on Palm Beach and it’s 35 degrees and there is make-up running in your eyes, it makes a nice change.
“I love panto, the genre and getting up there on the stage in front of a live audience. For many children this is their first visit to the theatre and I just love seeing their wide eyes and listening to them booing and cheering.
"And at the evening performances you get to see three generations of the family. Sometimes the parents get as much fun out of watching the kids as they do from the panto. And I love playing the baddy – it is so much fun.”
Starring alongside Meagher as Aladdin is Pui Fan Lee - a CBeebies presenter, and better known as the voice behind Po the Teletubby.
“Pui is the loveliest person,” said Meagher. “I worked with her colleague Chris Jarvis a few years ago in panto and he told me all about her and everything was right. She will make a fantastic Aladdin.”
Yet despite his passion for theatre, Meagher insisted he has no plans to ditch the Channel Five soap for a career on stage.
“I have not thought about leaving [Home and Away] lately,” he said. “I have thought about it fleetingly before but for the past 10 or 12 years it has been great fun and I have worked with some fantastic people.
“Some people think Alf is miserable but I think he is an upstanding member of the community. He can be a bit grumpy and gets stuck into people and you have to be quick to catch his apology if he is wrong, but on the whole he is a big softie.”
Aladdin runs until Sunday, January 4. For more information and to book, visit www.theanvil.org.uk or call the box office on 01256 844244.