From Doctor Evil to Prince Charming

Neighbours’ resident compulsive liar, Mark Raffety, discusses his new role.

Mark Raffety is currently starring in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves at the Grand Opera House, York, 15th December to 8th January (Box Office: 08701 451163)

How did you make the transition from doing a soap in Australia to pantomime in York?
A bunch of people in Neighbours had done it over here, enjoyed it and recommended it to me. I think if you’ve got public exposure in England, then you get the call. It’s a tradition really for soap stars to do it, and not just with the Aussie shows but also with stuff like Coronation Street and EastEnders. This is actually my fourth panto now, and I love doing it.

You were born in England though, weren’t you?
Yes, but I left when I was a baby. I was actually born in Portsmouth, way down south, which was very freaky, as that was where I did my first ever panto. Can you imagine it, I was walking down the same streets my parents pushed me in my buggy, yet this time dressed as a giant rat for the show! People were shouting ‘Hi Darcy’ at me instead of Mark, it was a very surreal experience.

Do you have panto in Australia?
No we don’t, it’s again very much a British thing. I can’t think of any other country anywhere that does it, I mean can you imagine Panto in Germany? ‘Zat’s not funny! Zis is funny!’ I mean come on, it just wouldn’t work anywhere else, it’s such a purely British experience.

How did you get into acting?
Well originally I was an illustrator, but my girlfriend at the time was sick of me getting constantly under her feet, so she told me to audition for this commerical. I scored it straight away, which was great, and it just followed on from there. So I guess I did it for the money first! But the love did follow afterwards, and I feel very lucky to do a job which has both love and money. Because it’s impossible to do one without the other, really.

So how did you land a part in Neighbours?
I got into Neighbours because I didn’t get a character I auditioned for. However the producers really liked my audition so they decided to write a part for me! Darcy’s a really great character, and I love playing him. He has such a wide canvas, and therefore is a joy to play, as you just don’t know what he’s going to do next. One moment there’s comedic scenes, then there’s emotional ones and then there are scary ones. He’s not your standard Neighbours character who doesn’t vary very much.

When you’re in Neighbours , do you realise its popularity in Britain, especially among students?
Yes, well we’re always aware of our ratings, and we know we’re popular. It’s light entertainment, but very succesful light entertainment so I’m not knocking it. I mean, I love doing panto and that’s the lightest of light! People need to be entertained, it’s just that I prefer to watch documentaries and films in my free time, something a bit heavier.

How are you finding York?
It’s a beautiful city. I walked past the Minster and that’s a fantastic building you’ve got there. You’re very lucky, having that sense of history which Australia just doesn’t have. Our western history is only a couple of hundred years old, if you go any deeper then you go into Aboriginal history.

Is the stereotype of an Aussie Christmas as all barbies on the beach really true?
No, that’s a myth, and people buy into that. Obviously it arrives in our summer, so if you live by a beach then you probably would have it there, but it was originally an advertising campaign by Paul Hogan! We have the huge marketing campaign around Christmas like you do here, but with a different slant of the Aussie way of doing things. You have real snow, we have fake stuff. We still wear a Santa Claus hat, but with bathers instead of a coat!

Will there be a return for Darcy?
Yes, but only if the story lines are right. He’s such a great character; I don’t want to come back for any old stories and ruin it. At the moment I have my directorial debut coming up doing a short educational film about mental health conditions, which is my chance to give something back.

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