Interview: Mark Little

Abigail SaltmarshAustralian comedian Mark Little is back in Norwich determined to defend the caveman from his sexist reputation. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH stepped back to prehistoric times with him.Abigail Saltmarsh

Australian comedian Mark Little is back in Norwich determined to defend the caveman from his sexist reputation. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH stepped back to prehistoric times with him.

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Ask Mark Little about the award-winning production of Defending the Caveman and he picks up his club ready for action. Ask him about Neighbours and he retreats back into his cave.

It has been nearly 20 years since the Australian comedian stepped out of Joe Mangel's shoes and came to the UK to make a name for himself here.

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In his role in the long-running soap, which, during his time became one of the most popular shows on television, he was one of its most memorable characters [along with the likes of Kylie and Jason, of course].

Yet, in many ways, despite the boost it gave him in the UK where he was often watched by up to 10 million viewers, he blames cheeky chappie Joe for his inability to get much further in television.

'I do think that in some ways the success of Joe Mangel got in the way,' he says. 'There are a lot of people out there who still think I'm a gardener and not an actor!'

But, following a successful UK-based career, Mark has more than proved his credentials away from Ramsay Street.

He came to Britain in 1994 to take up residence on The Big Breakfast for two years, where he replaced Chris Evans on the sofa and has since then carved out an impressive career on stage.

Mark, now 50, first took on the role in hit one man show Defending the Caveman in 2000. Created and first performed by Rob Becker in San Francisco in 1991, it is the longest running solo play in Broadway history.

It went on to win a Best Entertainment Olivier Award and has today been translated into 16 different languages and been performed to more than five million people across the globe.

'I am excited to be doing it again,' says Mark. 'I haven't been to Norwich with it before so it will be fun.'

As its title suggests, the comedy looks at the misunderstandings between men and women and claims the poor old caveman has been harshly judged in his treatment of women.

'In the show I try to explain men to women and we go back to caveman times so see how they carried on.

'What many people don't realise is that cavemen actually worshipped women - their women were very important to them,' he said. 'This show puts it all in perspective.'

Mark describes the show as 'very chatty and interactive'.

'There are moments where I step out of the script and talk to the women for a while and then talk to the men,' he says. 'But it is a finely crafted, multi-media production, which is a great piece of theatre.'

He adds: 'This is definitely a show for people who have been in a relationship for longer than five minutes.'

Since moving to the UK, Mark has been involved in countless comedy shows and made numerous appearances at a variety of festivals.

He portrayed Leigh Bowery in Taboo at The Venue, Leicester Square, and was in the recent UK tour of Tim Firth's Safari Party.

He also played Costard in Love's Labours Lost and Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

And he returned to Australia to play Crispin in A Chorus of Disapproval, with the Melbourne Theatre Company.

Mark has also appeared in films in the past, such as Blackball, directed by Mel Smith with Paul Kaye, Johnny Vegas, Imelda Staunton and Evil Angels, directed by Fred Schepisi and starring Meryl Streep and Sam Neill.

But it is on stage where he continues to make a name for himself.

His next role will see him take on the mantle of an old Australian out in the bush in A Stretch of the Imagination.

'This is a man who is out in the bush and is recalling his life. This is one of the most beautiful parts of Australia, but to him it doesn't have much charm any more because he is there all the time.

'It shows how when you live somewhere you can get used to it,' he says.

The play will run at the Cock Tavern in Kilburn in June and July and then Mark hopes it will make it to the West End.

'For now though I'm on the road with Defending the Caveman and it will be good to get back to Norwich,' he says. 'Lovely old Norwich - it will be great to see it again. That's a bit like getting back out into the bush, isn't it?'

t Mark Little appears in Defending the Caveman at Norwich Playhouse, April 8-10, �16.50 (�14.50 cons), 01603 598598,