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Alan Fletcher, aka Neighbours' Dr Karl Kennedy, is in panto at the Stag Theatre, Sevenoaks

Alan Fletcher
Alan Fletcher

Neighbours’ favourite doctor Karl Kennedy, aka Alan Fletcher, has set aside his good guy persona to play the nasty Sheriff of Nottingham in a Kent panto. And the Aussie soap legend is also making a bid for the Christmas No.1 while he’s in the UK.

Why did you sign up for panto in Sevenoaks?

I saw my friend Shane Connor (Joe Scully in Neighbours) do panto at the Stag many years ago.

I like the fact it is a small and intimate theatre so you have close interaction with the audience.

And Sevenoaks itself is a very charming part of the world, right on the edge of London.

What is the story behind the show’s unusual title, Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood?

It was originally Babes in the Wood. Robin Hood was just a character in the play, being from the forest of Nottingham.

But over time he became a leading boy and got incorporated into the title.

Alan Fletcher, aka Dr Karl Kennedy in Neighbours, with on-screen wife Susan, aka Jackie Woodburne
Alan Fletcher, aka Dr Karl Kennedy in Neighbours, with on-screen wife Susan, aka Jackie Woodburne

Is it your first panto?

I have done five pantos before, all in the UK – in Wales, Sheffield, St Albans, Malvern and Aberdeen.

This is my first time in Kent. I love playing the baddie, it is always fun.

What do you enjoy about being in a pantomime?

The real joy is that for a lot of children it is their first theatre experience. It puts a lot of responsibility on to the performer to give them something special.

Panto is the combination of so many skills and factors, you have got vaudeville, music hall, comedy and routines, some very strong drama.

That’s what makes it feel really good.

Six in 60 Seconds

Robin Hood or Ned Kelly? Ned Kelly

Sydney Opera House or Stag Theatre? Stag Theatre every time!

Russell Crowe or Errol Flynn? Errol Flynn

Nicole Kidman or Jackie Woodburne (aka on-screen wife Susan in Neighbours)? Jackie

Crocodile Dundee or Mad Max? More of a Mad Max guy

Jason or Kylie? Sorry Jason, I have to go Kylie

How does it feel to swap the Neighbours set for the theatre?

I have done a lot of theatre work but as I have been in Neighbours for 19 years, the theatre work became a bit more spasmodic.

It is very reinvigorating to get back out on stage.

It revitalises your craft and also freshens your attitude towards Neighbours.

Tell us about your new single, If You Want a Happy Christmas?

I was invited to participate in it by Australian retro harmony group Pacific Belles.

They suggested we do a charity cover song for Christmas, and I said, let’s do an original.

It has always been a bucket list thing for me to write a Christmas song, and of course ideally to have one that actually gets into the charts.

All my profit from the sale of this single will go to Blue September, which is a fundraising and awareness campaign for cancers in men.

Hopefully people will like the song and help me do a little bit of good for cancer research as well.

Who came up with the idea of putting fellow Neighbours star Stefan Dennis in the video for the song?

We are great pals. We love hanging out together and working together in Neighbours.

As he plays a baddie in the soap, we thought it would be great to get him to come in and be part of the video and play a Bad Santa. It was enormous fun to film.

Alan Fletcher and the Pacific Belles
Alan Fletcher and the Pacific Belles

What’s your favourite Christmas single?

There are two: the Slade song Merry Xmas Everyone, and also Darlene Love’s version of Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home).

How will you be spending Christmas Day?

Probably catching up with some of the family in the UK, although it will depend totally on the weather.

If it does snow, it’s very hard to get around as I don’t have a car and there’s no public transport.

I can’t really see myself riding a bicycle to London. I might treat myself to a bit of a sleep and get up for the start of the Boxing Day Ashes Test, as it will start here about midnight on Christmas Day.

Hopefully it will be a Test that is actually a contest!

Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood will be running at the Stag Theatre in Sevenoaks until Sunday, January 5.

Alan Fletcher plays the Sheriff of Nottingham, with former X Factor finalist Andy Abraham as Little John, and 1990s pop star Lolly, aka Anna Kumble, as Fairy Forest.

Tickets from £19 for adults, £16 for concessions. Call 01732 450175.

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