All posts by AlanFletcher

Neighbours Stars shine in Frankie and Johnny

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing two of my Neighbour’s work mates create moving and powerful performances on stage in Melbourne. They appear in the title roles of the play “Frankie and Johnny in the clair de lune” written by Terrence McNally.

Kate Kendall (Frankie) and Damien Richardson (Johnny) are actors loved by viewers of Neighbours, she for her depiction of Lauren Turner , he as Gary Canning.

However, both of these talented performers also have television, film and theatre credits that establish them as amongst the most versatile and accomplished performers in our industry.

Fankie and Johnnie-42 copy copyThe play is brilliantly directed by another much loved member of the Neighbour’s cast Colette Mann (Sheila Canning).

The script  deals with love and the search for intimacy and connection between two people. From an evening of casual sex Johnny is convinced he has discovered his soul mate whilst Frankie is unconvinced and troubled by his intensity. Their passionate, fiery and intense journey to an understanding about each other and themselves is simply riveting.

I write to encourage everyone to see this play before it closes on November 29 because it presents a rare opportunity to see excellent work directed and performed at the highest level.

Bookings and more information available here: Frankie and Johnny – 45 Downstairs

Please note this performance contains full frontal nudity, coarse language and strong sex scenes.

Here is a review from the Herald Sun in Melbourne: REVIEW

frankie and johnny poster art

I Almost Died Today

(I almost died today. Well actually that was the other day and its another story- start again.)

Today I almost had my head caved in.

I love playing golf but it is not without risks. An errant golf ball can come from nowhere and inflict painful and even life threatening injuries. So it was that I was enjoying a twilight round at my local golf course the other day when a golf ball bounced on the path in front of me and sailed past my face. It was so sudden I didn’t even have time to be shocked.

When I saw the owner of the missile that almost terminated me I, politely, told him how close the ball had come to me and suggested that he might have invoked the golfing etiquette of warning me his errant tee shot was sailing in my direction. He asked, “Did the ball hit you?”. “No”, I replied. “Then I guess it’s your F*#@%ing lucky day then”, he barked back before marching on.

Losing your cool

It was impossible to not feel outrage at his behaviour. In the golfing world we apologise when our poor stroke play endangers others. Its called etiquette and it makes for safer play.

We have all been in this situation. A driver cuts in on us, almost causing an accident,  and our warning blast of the horn is met with ‘the bird’. We all have the associate at work who screws up and places the blame on others. And bureaucracy! Don’t get me started!

I was recently at a party where I was discussing politics with a fellow guest when a drunken eavesdropper on our conversation took umbrage at what I was saying and started abusing me. The torrent of abuse could not be subdued by polite requests so I left.

Today I was reflecting on how hard it is to let go of the sense of injustice that these incidents evoke. When we are confronted by  boorish, rude, aggressive behaviour  we want to have the power to force the offender to see the error of their ways. In OUR perfect world they will apologise and rejoin the ranks of civilised society.

That led me to consider how that might happen. How could we regain the power over these troglodites? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to confront them, make them see the error of their ways and rejoice in their inevitable apology? Then the warning bell sounds. They might not see the wisdom of my, albeit calm, admonishment of their behaviour. They might get violent! So I, sensibly,  withdraw.

But, are you like me? Do you every now and again fall into the fantasy where, in best Dirty Harry style, you can reduce the villain to a snivelling mess  because you have  a .44 Magnum to intimidate him into submission?

If only I had a gun! No one cuts in on me in on the motorway or drops a golf ball on my head without apologising goddammit!!!!!

Angry Golf 1This is, of course, just a function of the natural desire to regain power and right perceived wrongs.  But it is a wholly unhealthy attitude that fuels so much violence and gun crime around the world, particularly in countries with poor controls on deadly weapons.

The examples I have cited in terms of bad golf or driving behaviour are incredibly trivial. The depth and breadth of injustice in this world is so immense that my minor social altercations are meaningless.

And yet, I can seemingly allow my frustration and anger about these minor matters to be felt more deeply than my outrage at tyrants who inflict terror upon tens of thousands of innocent people every day?

That is the nature of the human condition. We feel most powerfully about things that affect us directly. I’ve read ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff’ and I know it is all small stuff so why do I hang onto trivial angst?

So it occurred to me that maybe I get angry and resentful about trivial incidents because it is easier doing that than confront what really makes me angry and disappointed. Refugee children losing their sanity and childhood while languishing in immigration detention for years on end. Discrimination, exploitation, poverty, wars fought for economic gain under the guise of social reform. There is so much WRONG in the world it is overwhelming. So I retreat into the ‘safe’ world of bemoaning the behaviour of A-holes on the golf course or highways.

The Anglo-Irish philosopher and politician Edmund Burke famously said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

What he, perhaps less famously, also said was “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”

What I learnt today is, I can deal with my outrage about injustices inflicted on me by being MORE outraged about the injustices that AREN’T inflicted on me. My challenge is to focus my outrage on the stuff that really matters in whatever ‘little’ way I can and let the A-holes disappear up the own proverbials.

Thanks for absorbing my rant. Your comments on the above are welcomed.

P.S Golf is a serious game but fun should still be had – there’s a bit of Happy Gilmour in all of us!

 

Singing is so Good for You.

Singing – How it Changes the Brain

Most of us enjoy singing whether it be in the shower, the car, on match day in the stands or maybe a touch of Karaoke after a few pints. Singing makes us feel good and there are tangible medical reasons why this occurs.

Medical research* has discovered that singing can produce a number of positive effects in the brain. Singing creates new neural pathways activating the right temporal lobe in the brain, releasing endorphins that create a sense of happiness and stimulate creativity. Singing is also been shown to produce a significant increase in oxytocin, another drug that produces a sense of happiness in the brain.

And it appears the benefits of singing are amplified when we do it together, in groups large or small. A recent Swinburne study measured the benefits choristers’ report from singing.

Swinburne-Research-Graphics

A study conducted at the University of Gottenburg in Sweden discovered that singing together syncronises heartbeats creating a calming effect as beneficial to the heart as yoga. Singing helps us breathe better providing tangible health benefits, particularly for people suffering from impaired lung function.(1)

Singing has been shown to produce beneficial results in the treatment of stroke and depression.

Australian soprano Tania de Jong AM describes singing as a “super-dooper drug” In her TEDx talk in Melbourne in 2013, Tania revealed how her discovery of the spectacular benefits singing has for our well being stimulated her to set up Creativity Australia and the associated With One Voice program.

SFG_logo

This program is designed to build choirs of singers from a wide range of cultural, socio-economic and health circumstances. With One Voice builds massed choirs where a CEO of a major corporation might sing alongside a refugee seeking a job and a new life. Massed choirs where the golden rule is inclusion and respect for diversity.

The results have been spectacular. Not only has the opportunity to sing together built choristers’ self esteem, boosted their happiness and given them a sense of belonging, it has also developed friendships and business connections that have improved peoples lives immeasurably.

In 2014 my great pals The Pacific Belles and I became ambassadors for the With One Voice program – Sing for Good. We joined with a team of ukulele players called the U.F.O. to produce our fundraising community singing video of the marvelous standard “Ac-cent-uate the Positive”. This year we have added the Melbourne Ukulele Kollective (MUK) to the mix to produce our community rendition of “Dream a Little Dream of Me’

Ambassador-photos-for-website3_opt

You can watch both videos below as well as Tania de Jong’s inspiring Tedx Melbourne talk on singing and creativity.

The money we raise from these videos will go toward establishing new choirs around Australia, spreading the community and health benefits that group singing can produce as widely as possible.

We welcome your support.

Our fundraising page is at this link: Dream a Little Dream of Me Fundraising Page

Preview our contribution to 2015 Sing for Good.

And here is our contribution to 2014 Sing for Good.

You can read about what Sing for Good achieves at this link: Why We Sing

Tania de Jong – How singing changes your brain.

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*TIME article on how singing changes the Brain

*Benefits of singing UK heart research

  1. University of Gothenburg study

Blog Post Index

Welcome to Alan Fletcher Blog Posts.

I blog on a variety of topics.

TRAVEL

My TRAVEL Blog Posts include my travel photography

Latest posts include

Iceland Part 1 – All about my gig in Reykjavik

Iceland Part 2 – All about my photographic journey

 

WHAT I LEARNT TODAY

This blog examines bits and pieces of knowledge and wisdom I have come across in my life journey.

I Almost Died Today – A reflection on anger and frustration

How Singing Changes the Brain – How the Creativity Australia program With One Voice is making a difference.

MUSIC

I regularly profile musicians I admire in the hope you will too!

Latest Posts:

JD Weaver : British singer songwriter using music to deal with disability

The Computers : Eclectic UK Band with Pop/ Punk influences

Alex Gibson : Australian Singer/Songwriter

Dallas Frasca: Powerhouse Aussie Rock Act

Johnny Lucas : Brit Rock/Pop Singer Songwriter

Denny Lloyd: UK singer/songwriter

 

 

GENERAL UPDATES

In this blog section I discuss Neighbours and my acting work plus matters of General Interest.

Jennifer Hansen’s new novel MAKING HEADLINES

Neighbour’s actors direct and perform stunning theatre. 

Iceland – Part 2

 ICELAND – The Journey Continues

Iceland (110 of 1)

Last week I posted a blog post on the first stage of my trip to Iceland in January. The post covered the experience of gigging at Spot Nightclub and meeting the hundreds of Neighbour’s fans who turned up to say hello, get a photo and enjoy the music.

This post covers my trip up country to explore Iceland’s incredible scenery.

It was the greatest good fortune that I linked up with photographer Matt Spracklen for this Iceland adventure. Not only did Matt photograph the gig so amazingly and summarise the trip brilliantly in video,  but he also discovered the perfect way to see Iceland, with Andreas Jones photography tours.

With so little time at our disposal, combined with a distinct lack of sunlight in winter and treacherous driving conditions, Matt and I were concerned our ability to see Iceland’s scenic treasures would be severely compromised if we attempted the exercise without a guide. Andreas is an UK based photographer that specialises in Iceland tours. With his inexhaustible enthusiasm, skill and endurance Matt and I got to travel safely to the best locations day and night. Plus we received photography advice along the way AND had the best time as a group to boot!

Before we headed off into the hinterland Matt and I enjoyed two days exploring and photographing Reykjavik in amongst a blistering schedule of interviews for local press. (The level of interest in Neighbours is amazing.).

Reykjavik

Iceland’s capital is a thoroughly modern and cosmopolitan city. Fine dining, generous hospitality and great beer are the order of the day along with excellent high speed internet. The city has a world wide reputation for partying all night and we saw plenty of evidence of that. I can’t wait to get back to Reykjavik – particularly in summer!

Here are Reykjavik images :

 

 

Jökulsárlón

Andreas collected Matt and I very early on Day 1 and we drove through the morning darkness to the famed Jökulsárlón lagoon.

This lagoon at the base of a glacier in the Vatnajökull National Park is a truly unique location. Small icebergs break away from the glacier and drift through the lagoon and out to sea. On the nearby black sand beach these same chunks of ice drift back to the beach to create a rare photographic opportunity.

Here are some images from Jökulsárlón

 

Northern Lights

After a full day shooting at Jökulsárlón we retired, briefly,  for dinner before heading back out at 10pm to try and capture the Northern Lights. Again we were indebted to Andreas for knowing where to capture a great image and, more importantly, encouragement that a result would be forthcoming. At 3am our faith was rewarded with the view of a lifetime as the sky lit up in swirling greens, reds and purples.

Northern Lights Gallery:

 Vestrahorn, Vik and Waterfalls

The next two days were all about exploiting the few hours of sunlight available. Day 1 was a 23 hour endurance fest but Andreas was undaunted. Day 2 was spent back at Jökulsárlón capturing the black sand beach at dawn and then a dart north to Vestahorn. This soaring rocky outcrop oversees the sand dunes and sea and the winter snow gave a ghostly, almost monochromatic, hue to the scene. Day 3 we commenced our journey back south. First stopover was the town of Vik, with it’s black sand beach and striking volcanic rock outcrops jutting from the sea. Here we met two french tourists who had poignantly written Je Suis Charlie in the snow using black sand from the beach. It was a salient reminder that, while we were enjoying Iceland’s natural wonders Paris had suffered a devastating terrorist attack.

Then it was on to the awe-inspiring waterfalls of Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. This second waterfall  is often photographed from beneath it’s cascade. As you will see from my images only a brave person would climb the access stairs.

Here are some images from these 2 days exploring.

 

The Golden Circle

On the last full day of our journey Andreas organized accommodation in close proximity to Iceland’s number one tourist area, the Golden Circle. First stop was the thermal spring sights at Geyer. Here the massive active volcanic forces that lie beneath Iceland vent their strength and heat from a number of geysers. It was fascinating to view the slow but regular build up of energy followed by the inevitable surge of steam and hot water.

 

Next stop was, arguably, Iceland’s most famous waterfall, Gullfoss. Unfortunately the weather was against us this day and photographing this amazing waterfall was a feat worthy of a Survivor episode with icy gale force winds and extremely slippery condition making just standing up difficult. We persevered and I was happy with the results.

Next on the agenda was a trip to Thingvellir National Park. However, access to this rift valley became impossible as roads were closed by snowdrifts. We saw a lot of vehicles that had come to grief but, mercifully, Andreas got us back safely. So we spent an afternoon taking in the delights of our farm homestay and enjoying the company of Iceland’s iconic horses.

 

That night the chances of seeing the Northern Lights were forecast to be minimal. Yet, soon after retiring, Andreas was pounding on our door and pulling us out into the snow for one more glimpse of the Aurora Borealis.

Not much sleep again tonight as we huddled together for warmth capturing this incredible atmospheric phenomena one more time.

On my last day we headed south to the airport stopping at, arguably, Iceland’s most famous tourist destination – The Blue Lagoon. These famed hot springs just outside of Reykjavik are a magnet for tourists and locals alike.

This 7 day taste of Iceland has been an extraordinary experience. I have gigged to hundreds of people in Reykjavik, been interviewed by dozens of newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations. I have travelled hundreds of kilometres and seen amazing scenic wonders. I have met hundreds of Icelanders who have expressed their dedication to Neighbours. And I have made forged some close lifetime friendships.

Here are some images that wrap up my trip.

WITH THANKS

Thankyou to the following wonderful people.

Birgir and Darri from Reykjavik by Night for organising all the gig logistics and looking after us so well.

Birgir Ragnar Birgisson and Darri McMahon from Reykjavik by Night for organising all the gig logistics and looking after us so well.

Link : Reykjavik by Night

Johnny Lucas, Sam Weston and Jonathon Brister from LUCAS for  their sensational support at the gig.

Johnny Lucas, Sam Weston and Jonathon Brister from LUCAS for their sensational support at the gig.

Link : Lucas the Band

Andreas Jones (centre) and matt Spracklen (right) for providing me with instruction, fun and friendship.

Andreas Jones (centre) and Matt Spracklen (right) for providing me with instruction, fun and friendship – and helping me get great shots!

Link : Matt Spracklen Photography

Link : Andreas Jones Photography Tours

ZO-ON Clothing for supplying me with the very best outdoor gear imaginable. You kept me alive guys!

ZO-ON Clothing for supplying me with the very best outdoor gear imaginable. You kept me alive guys!

Link: ZO-ON Outdoor Clothing

Footnote:

Matt and I recorded a video for Andreas at the end of the tour and then added this bit of silliness for fun. Enjoy NICE HAT.


Iceland – Part 1

When I mention Iceland  to anyone I get one of two responses. The people who have never been there, express a strong desire to go. The people who have been there express a desperation to return!
In January 2015 I took my first trip to Iceland and, yes, I am desperate to return because I could not have enjoyed my trip to this amazing country more.
Why Iceland? Well, as a photography enthusiast I wanted to explore the amazing scenery that develops  in a country containing such a significant proportional of the world’s geo-thermal activity. This truly is a land of Fire and Ice with spectacular waterfalls, volcanos, seascapes and glaciers. The added bonus is the opportunity to see the Northern Lights.

(But more about that in Blog Post 2 on Iceland.)

Iceland (12 of 38) cropped

Not only is Iceland host to some of the greatest scenery in the world it’s capital, Reykjavik, has a reputation for being one hell of a party town.  And I was also aware that almost 50% of Iceland’s population watch Neighbours! So I hatched a plan – visit Iceland for a week, play a gig in a cool venue in Reykjavik and then explore the sights.

To play a gig in the right venue I would need a couple of magicians on the ground who knew Reykjavik and how it works.

Darri MacMahon and Birgir Ragnar Birgisson from Reykjavik by Night were the men for the job.

Reykjavik by Night specialises in showing the thousands of tourists who flood to Iceland in search of it’s  legendary party scene a great time! Then after the party they can help you explore all the country’s scenic delights.

Darri and Birgir organised the venue for the gig, SPOT club in Kópavogur, the ticketing and a storm of publicity. To ice the cake they organised Iceland’s premier outdoor clothing company ZO-ON to outfit me in the very best cold weather gear. Without their incredibly warm and practical clothes I would not have survived the outdoor photo shoots.

Right Gig sorted now for a band!

Straight onto the phone to my great mate Johnny Lucas who, with bandmates Sam Weston, Jonathon Brister, were on board to play the gig immediately.

Band and Darri and Biggi

The Gang: Darri, Johnny, Me, Birgir(Biggi), Sam and Jonathon.

Next I needed someone to help me document the gig and I turned to a new found connection – photographer Matt Spracklen. Matt had made contact with me earlier in 2014 to introduce me to a band he frequently photographs and films called the Computers. Seeing Matt’s amazing work I knew he would not only do an awesome job documenting my Iceland adventure,  but he would also prove to be a fantastic companion on my photographic journey into the hinterland.

With all these talented  people at my back nothing could go wrong and it didn’t. I met hundreds of Neighbours fans in a meet and greet session at Spot. The gig was loved by all who came. I was welcomed with open arms by the people and press in Reykjavik who couldn’t get enough of Neighbours talk.

Matt put together this video compilation of the tour for you to enjoy and I have also placed a gallery of shots below that document the first instalment of my Iceland adventure.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. The first part o my trip to Iceland was a dream come true. But the journey had only just begun! Next blog I will share the photographic adventure up country!

Links:

If you really want to enjoy Iceland’s party scene check out Reykjavik By Night : http://reykjaviknightlife.net

If you want to be warm in Iceland check out Zo-on clothing: http://www.zo-on.is/um-zo-on-is.html

If you are looking for a truly superb photographer – weddings a speciality check out : http://www.mattspracklen.com/musicandpromo/iceland

Flashback to 1994 – Alan’s Showreel

So, At work the other day I was handed a copy of the showreel I submitted to Grundy Television in 1994 as my application to audition for Neighbours. To be honest I had forgotten all about it.

What was I thinking?! Even then I couldn’t resist the temptation to send myself up. The video features a skit from the hit Aussie comedy show Fast Forward entitled “Reach for the Bucket” , scenes from the ABC drama “Embassy” in which I appeared for three seasons, the feature film “Gross Misconduct” with Jimmy Smits,  the mini-series’ “All the Rivers Run 2” and “Snowy”, the NBC Telemovie “Mercy Mission” with Scott Bakula and the feature film “Beyond My Reach”.

The video also features my beautiful wife Jennifer Hansen in her guise as newsreader for Channel 10 Melbourne.

Enjoy a little blast from the past!

 

Big Day for Robin Hood

Robin Hood Sparkles in Dunstable.

The Magic Beans Pantomimes production of Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood opens it’s season on December 12 at the wonderful Grove Theatre in Dunstable.

A few days before opening the cast took to the streets of the town on a flat bed truck to spread the Christmas Sparkle message.

Image 7

We travelled all over Dunstable visiting sponsors like Specsavers, Costa, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. The response from the citizens of Dunstable was warm and appreciative with much hilarity when Steve Hewlett’s “dummy” Arthur Lager chatted up the lady folk!

A huge highlight for me was meeting a gentleman who had a copy of the programme from my 2002 panto season in St Albans.

St Albans programme

It was a hugely successful  day culminating in a special Christmas Sparkle concert in Grove Park.

Here’s some pics of the day.

 

It’s Beginning to look a lot like (Panto) Christmas

A White Christmas?

My bags are packed, passport is in the pocket. UK here I come for pantomime in Dunstable. Question is …. Will it Snow, Will it Snow , Will it SNOW?”

I am really looking forward to another Festive Season in the UK working with great mates on a fun show. If you are anywhere near Bedfordshire I would love to see you at the show. I will be posting regular panto diaries. All the deets on my panto HERE.

Now, last Christmas I made this video of the Xmas song I wrote and performed with The Pacific Belles ” If You Want a Happy Christmas”

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This year the song remains available on iTunes BUT I am including a CD copy in every personalised Christmas Card I am sending out.

My Christmas Package of card and CD for only £10:00 (Only £8.50 for my subscribers) is proving a big hit. If you are looking for a cute, reasonably priced gift for friends or family look no further!

You can purchase HERE.

Merry (Panto) Christmas!

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Big Month for Neighbours and Music

My Big Month

The last four weeks have been a wonderful creatively. The crowning event has been the 20th Anniversary episode of the Kennedy family arrival on Ramsay Street. The episode ran on Australian TV on October 3rd and on UK TV on October 17. I hope you managed to catch it. If not it is worth a look if only for all the fun and saucy flashbacks covering 20 years of the family’s involvement with the fabulous Neighbours. My time on the show has been the highlight of my career and every day I count my blessings for the opportunities and professional satisfaction the programme has brought me.

I have created a Dr Karl Kennedy page on this website to celebrate our 20 years with lots of fun photos and interesting links.

You can view that here: http://wp.me/P4xVQG-9h

20 Happy On-screen years

Musically things have been as fun as they have been varied.

I joined with the Pacific Belles and the U.F.O. (Ukelele Family Orchestra) to record a version of the old Bing Crosby/ Andrews Sisters classic “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive.” This project was to support fundraising for Creativity Australia’s support of community singing.

Here’s our work for your enjoyment:

Lastly I stepped into the Fox FM Studios in Melbourne to record a cover version of Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” for the Fifi and Dave Breakfast show.

Here’s how that came out.

http://www.fox.com.au/shows/fifi-dave/videos/dr-karl-sings-taylor-swifts-shake-it-off/#ooid=M1M3l5cDoCXrllqVfO__-kU8MmTgF044 …

I hope you are enjoying Neighbours and my website news.

Coming up…. I’m am off to gig in Iceland!