As she gets ready to return to the world of soap operas, former Neighbours star Lisa Armytage has been sharing her Ramsay Street experiences in a new audio project.
In the 14-part radio soap Riverside, Lisa, famous known for her work as the original Beverly Robinson from 1987 to 1989, has been cast.
The written Riverside serial, which has been published weekly in the People’s Friend magazine since 2016, served as the basis for the new play.
Lisa was recently interviewed by Digital Spy about her new project, working on Neighbours in the 1980s, and the demise of the show.
How did it make you feel to learn that Neighbours was coming to an end?
“There seemed to be some aspect of inevitable. It has to occur eventually. In some ways, it’s preferable for Neighbours to end while it’s still going strong and popular than to slowly fade away and disappear into obscurity.
“Neighbours has left viewers strong and well-liked. It implies that those who participated in the show can now anticipate working on new projects using their prior labour as a foundation.
Some things are beyond your power to overcome. There must have been numerous attempts to make the show profitable, but everything has to finish.
You participated in Neighbours at its height in the 1980s, when millions of people watched. How do you remember that period of time?
“It was amazing. Because of how well-liked Neighbours was, I went into it with a somewhat naive understanding of the kind of influence it would have on my life.
“Six weeks passed between the time I began filming and the airing of my first scenes. My life altered as soon as it aired.
“All of a sudden, I was unable to stroll down the street and study the people as I usually do since I am a people watcher. People would glance at me and immediately ask, “What on earth are you doing here?” Like I didn’t exist outside of the TV! (Laughs.) It was a remarkable experience.
Did the fans ever get into any weird situations with you?
“On one occasion, my husband’s buddy asked him if we might visit his children’s school because there was a school play going on. We foolishly took our own children, but soon found ourselves surrounded by teenagers, forcing us to flee. We fled the school while my husband carried our children on his shoulders.
“In some respects, it was strange. You had a strong sense that your privacy had been violated. For instance, it was challenging to unwind if I went swimming with my kids since we would instantly become the centre of attention.
“Once after school, I went shopping for clothes, and I was followed! I consequently had to use my dark glasses when shopping. And have you ever attempted to shop while sporting a pair of dark glasses? When you go home, the clothing are drastically different!
How was it like to collaborate with Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue?
It was a pleasure working with Kylie and Jason because they are beautiful individuals. Due to the fact that we weren’t in the same scenes, I hardly ever saw Kylie. She briefly caught my eye in the changing area. She came across to me as being really quiet, extremely diligent, and frequently exhausted.
“Jason and Kylie were putting forth nonstop effort. Every week, we had to work on 10 episodes. The interior pictures would be included in five episodes from one week, while the outdoor shots would be featured in five episodes from the following week.
In addition, Kylie and Jason made numerous weekend appearances. They did a lot, compared to what I did. They were two of the main characters and worked incredibly hard to promote the show.
“Jason was always a nice, kind man. They belonged to a younger age group than I did, either 18 or 19. When I was 31, I was an elderly 31-year-old, I believe. (Laughs.) I was in a distinct category because I was married and had children. However, I got along with them and every member of the cast.
When you left, did you stay in contact with anyone?
“Unfortunately, it’s like any employment in that after you leave, things start to drift apart. One thing deviated from that, though. We contacted Alan Dale, who portrayed Jim, Beverly’s husband, while he was making a stop in the UK after being in the US. It was fantastic to see him when we finally got together for supper.
“When we weren’t working on the show, I think we both felt lot more at ease with each other. It was so lovely to just be in contact as friends and have all the pressures and worries of working on the programme simply go.
“Unfortunately, I haven’t kept in frequent contact with anyone. When Jason Donovan was on Strictly Come Dancing and conducting some follow-up interviews, I once ran into him at the BBC in the elevator.
Was it ever possible for you to come back to Neighbours?
“At one time, I was asked if I would return. I believe that happened around a year ago. They asked me whether I was in Australia, and when they realised that I wasn’t, they said, “Sorry, it’s not going to work.”
I imagine financially they didn’t want to be responsible for housing me and other expenses for something that might have lasted for several weeks.
Is it accurate to say that your schedule caused you to leave Neighbours?
Yes, I joined Neighbours a week before the birthday of my second child. I was pretty worn out by the time she was two and a half and teething at night. I frequently had to be on site by 7am because of the schedule.
I was also a little disappointed that I wasn’t getting to spend as much time with her as I had hoped. It made me very sad to think that she was turning into more of the nanny’s child than mine.
Looking back, I should have either requested some time off or a six-month reduction in my hours to help me get through that very trying time. I believe I was a “all or nothing” person at the time, so I gave my resignation my full attention. Really, it’s a pity, but that was my decision.
The part of Beverly was taken over by Shaunna O’Grady. Did it bother you that the role was recast?
The fact that Jim’s wife leaves for a medical conference in Perth and returns completely changed without his knowledge astonished and amused me in a little way. Well, there are males for you, I reasoned.
“I can understand it,” you say. “I think I put them in a tough situation by resigning at that time.”
What led to your participation in the newest radio soap opera Riverside?
“I’ve been friends with Ian Skillicorn for approximately ten years. The original Riverside tales, penned by Glenda Young, have been modified by him.
I once performed story narration work for a website that Ian ran. Our collaboration on numerous short tales has turned into a friendship, so we stayed in touch. Really, it was only natural for Ian to regard me as one of the voices on Riverside.
What details about Ruby can you share with us?
“Ruby is incredibly vibrant. She reminds me of a parrot because of her vivid colours, loud attitude, romanticism, and sense of naivete. However, she is also fierce and fights back. She is a Northern parrot since she is from the North! It’s great fun to play with her.
Does Riverside have the ability to survive past its current 14 episodes?
I believe there is. The short stories on which it is based were written by Glenda Young, who has been writing this for a long time. If Ian and Glenda were willing to accomplish that, there is a plethora of material from which a continuous series could be derived. The series ends without a cliffhanger, thus it stands alone as a whole.
“The play has a very cosy sense of community. There are no issues that are too great for humans to overcome. It’s quite warm because they manage to form a community and tackle problems together.
Do you hope that Neighbours fans looking for a new soap will give it a try?
“I believe they ought to! particularly to learn what happened to the original Dr. Bev! She now speaks with a Northern accent!
What else have you done lately?
Recently, I completed a few audio dramas, one of which, From an Island, is still accessible for listening. It was fun to play a completely different role in that—a very commanding MP in that gloomy little tale.
“I work a lot on audiobooks, advertisements, and online courses. When I can collaborate closely with the writers, I particularly enjoy recording audiobooks. They and I communicate frequently, and we discuss the personalities and how they might sound.
“I believe that whatever I’m doing at the time is what I like doing the best. The fact that I have been working is the really positive thing.
“I believe that I would rejoice in the fact that my acting career is ongoing and evolving. Even though I’m in my mid-sixties now, life keeps getting better. In the upcoming years, I expect to see a lot more movies, TV shows, and audiobooks come my way.
“I’m going for a different appearance now that I’m letting my hair turn silver. A new phase is about to begin, so bring it on, I say!