Doctor beat

ARE you feeling a bit under the weather with all these cold and flu bugs going around? Well don't panic because everyone's favourite doctor is coming to town next Thursday!

That's because Neighbours' very own Alan Fletcher - aka Dr. Karl Kennedy - will descend on Walkabout next Thursday with his band Waiting Room. Free Press feature writer KATE MASON went down under with "The Fletch" to find out about the hotly anticipated gig and went fishing for a few storyline secrets about the Aussie soap along the way.

You're probably best known for your role as Karl Kennedy in Neighbours.

How did you get into acting and get the part on the show?

I started out doing theatre and TV shows. The first major TV role I had was in Cop Shop. I worked on the show for 18 months then throughout the 80s I did mini-series and other TV and radio work so it was a really eclectic mix. I had a three week fill in job in Neighbours in the 1980s working in the garage, they were between actors at the time. When the role of Karl came up I auditioned like everyone else in the normal way seven years on from my first appearance in the show and I got the part.

Can you give us any inside information on any Neighbours storylines that are coming up?

There's a few big storylines coming up for the Kennedys, the return of Libby Kennedy which is great - we love having her back. She basically comes back as Susan becomes very ill. There will be a lot of trauma ahead for the Kennedys. There is an accident in the street and Susan is involved and it turns into a family v family situation on the street. It also becomes an interesting dilemma for Karl obviously with his background of being a doctor.

Neighbours has become really popular in the UK and has developed a cult following - especially on the student scene why do you think this is?

I think one of the main things is that there is a really rich vein of comedy running through it, it's not just drama although that is a big part of it. I think as well that Australia is very similar to the UK in a lot of ways, it's very multi-cultural like the UK and I think this means that the Brits can relate to it like it's one of their own shows.

But there's still just enough differences to keep people interested.

What does the future hold for everyone's favourite Neighbours couple Karl and Susan?

Karl and Susan have had a rocky relationship but at the minute they couldn't be happier, they are stronger than ever. I think they have been through a lot so there should be happier times ahead, but you never know.

Do you plan to stay in Neighbours for as long as possible?

I'm happy to be there as long as they still want me. My current contract ends at the end of September 2008 but I have no plans to leave, although in the acting business, nothing lasts forever.

We were first treated to your singing talents in Neighbours when Dr Karl teamed up with Ned but how did you get into music away from the set?

I've been involved in music all my life through the theatre and different things and I've always loved rock'n'roll. I think it's everyone's dream to be in a rock'n'roll band and after teaming up with Tommy Rando and Chris Hawker, the possibility was there so I took it with both hands.

Do you prefer doing TV work or music?

I'm greedy I like doing both, performing to a live audience is a fabulous experience, doing theatre is a similar thing because the audience is right there so you get an instant reaction, it's tangible.

But TV is great and although you don't get an instant reaction you get to meet the fans after the show has been screened and understand their appreciation of the show.

You're coming to Walkabout in Doncaster next Thursday, have you ever been to Doncaster before?

Never but I'm looking forward to it, We've played just down the road in Sheffield many times and that's always one of the best places. The opportunity to play in Doncaster came up so we took it, Yorkshire is one of my favourite places on earth.

Will you be staying out after the show next Thursday?

We do signings and meet the fans after the show, so we'll be hanging around for a while. We try and fit as much in as time allows.

How did you meet the other members of the group?

I was in a restaurant with my wife and saw Tommy and Chris playing. I spoke to them after the show and played a few songs for them and it went from there. I spoke to the organiser of the Neighbours night which we have in Australia every Monday about playing at the night which is always really popular and he thought it would be a great idea and the fans loved it.

Have the band been successful?

We have had phenomenal succes.Wwe're on our fifth tour now to do one tour is amazing but five. Our first album did very well and we've got a live album coming out and our single So Wrong was released on 26th November. It's been incredible.

As well as original material you also do some cover versions on the tour, what kind of music do you like?

I love indie rock music, Kaiser Chiefs are probably my favourite band at the minute. We've played stuff by Fratellis, Oasis, we love playing The Killers and we also like to play old favourites like Bon Jovi mixed in with our own material.

How do you juggle family life and touring?

I miss my kids terribly and it is difficult especially around this time of year as the kids are off school but I do stay in contact with them. I'm lucky in that most of the time I'm working in one place for a long period of time on Neighbours.

You've become a bit of a pin-up in this country how do you feel about that?

(laughs) I think most people think I'm more like their father than a pin-up but I do get a lot of fans coming up and saying "my mum loves you." It's very flattering and I really appreciate the fans support. I love the fans and that's why I try and go out of my way to spend time with them as much as I can.

Does your wife get jealous of all the female attention?

(laughs) No my wife understands, she's had experience in the industry so she knows what it likes.

* Waiting Room will appear at Walkabout next Thursday. Tickets cost 6 in advance and are available on 01302 328188 or 8 on the door. Waiting Room's single So Wrong is now available and their new album is released on December 17 but will be sold in advance as a CD at the gig on Thursday.