24 Seven: Arts - He's Jack the lad of Ramsay Street; Ex-Neighbour's star follows his fellow Aussies into panto.
IT'S a long way from Ramsay Street to Widnes, but Oz actor Jonathon Dutton has made good the journey in double measure.
The 20-year-old sports enthusiast who played Tad in TV soap Neighbours is cast in the title role in a late-touring version of Jack And The Beanstalk at the Queens Hall.
The Christmas show may have transferred to the banks of the Mersey from so-called Sunny Torquay but the Widnes jaunt amounted to a return trip for Jonathon. Only a few weeks ago he was in the same neck of the woods filming with Royle Family star Ralf Little.
The BBC has just made a further 10 episodes of the sitcom Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps, due to start screening next month. Jonathon plays an Australian character (surprise! surprise!) called David, who be friends one of the main characters. ``David is very straight down the line. He doesn't laugh a lot, unlike Tad who was very happy go lucky. ``While we were filming I was staying over in Daresbury, Alice In Wonderland country.'' And, as it happens, that was almost home from home - at least for Jonathon's dad, John, who now runs a mental health agency near the Neighbours base city Melbourne, but was born in Swinton. ``He was only eight when he left for Australia in 1959,'' notes Jonathon, ``but he did come over and hired a car to drive around his childhood haunts.
``The house he lived in as a boy is still there, but he says quite a lot has changed.'' This week saw Jonathan's first trip to Liverpool: ``I enjoyed myself, but I couldn't live here. It's far too cold,'' he says.
``I just took the train up from Runcorn, went to see the Cavern and the Beatles museum, and even managed to lose my camera in a pub. ``But luckily, when I phoned to check, someone had found it, and it was returned to me in a taxi.''
Jonathon is the latest of many Neighbours characters who have worked in and around Liverpool, starting with Jason Donovan's singing stint at Quadrant Park, Bootle, and ending up with Daniel MacPherson (Joel) appearing in the revival of Godspell at the Playhouse last year. In between, Stefan Dennis (Paul Robinson), Gayle and Gillian Blakeney (the Alessi twins) and Ian Smith (Harold Bishop) have done panto, while Anne Charleston (the late Madge Bishop) toured to Southport in a Noel Coward play, and is now safely relocated to revamped soap Crossroads. Says Jonathon: ``A soap is a soap. You do the same thing five days a week, even if you do get good story lines. ``I had done Neighbours for four years and I just felt there was no point in going on for ever.
``Although they asked me to renew my contract, I decided the time had come for a move, so I gave them six months notice.''
For the past seven months, Jonathon has been renting a flat in London.
``Now I'd like to try my hand at some contemporary plays. That's my favourite sort of stuff. ``I know people go on about leaving Melbourne, with all the surfing and the sun, and it is the most amazing place in the world. ``It is very hard to leave it all behind, but in this business, you have to.''
THERE'S comedy and high drama on the way - courtesy of the Royal Shakespeare Company. A touring company of 20 players is presenting two contrasting plays, The Merry Wives of Windsor and the political thriller, Coriolanus. Nearest stop is the Birchwood Leisure Centre, Warrington from February 11 to 15.
BEAN THERE: Former Neighbour Jonathon Dutton who is playing; the title role in Jack in the Beanstalk at the Queens Hall, Widnes