RAMSAY Street is a long way from the Yellow Brick Road, and Benjamin
Mitchell knows it.
The 22-year-old, who recently finished playing the wicked witch's chief
henchman in the Victorian State Opera's Wizard of Oz, will be a new face on
Neighbours from tomorrow night, but he's well aware that the soap may not carry
the credibility of stage.
"The majority (of actors) definitely would say there's more credibility in
theatre," he says. "But that's not my viewpoint ... because I believe it's what
you do with what you're given."
Mitchell, who spoke and "did a lot of singing" in Wizard, doesn't
subscribe to the view that stage and soaps require differing degrees of talent.
"I think, in essence, all acting requires the same amount of ability. It
requires different styles, though. That's the point."
But he appreciates that acting in Neighbours doesn't bring the same level
of respect as a stage show. "Especially among your peers," he says. "I think
among the public, though, it's less so because if you entertain them, whether
it's on television or at the theatre, that's all they're interested in."
But regardless of respect, Mitchell says he was ecstatic to land the
Neighbours part. "When 97 per cent of actors are unemployed, you're happy to get
Mitchell, a Melburnian who has formerly had roles in the mini-series Bony
and the short-lived cop soap Skirts, is quick to say there is no truth in
rumours that Neighbours might get the chop because of droopy ratings.
According to him, the show is still popular, but its ratings are judged
more harshly than other soaps "because of its profound success when it first
After moving from 7 pm into its new 6.30 pm timeslot earlier this month,
Neighbours showed immediate signs of picking up in the Sydney ratings, averaging
13.7 points (169,058 homes) over the first five nights, an improvement of 1.5
(18,510 homes) on the previous week. Mitchell says the Neighbours cast feels the
show is "on an up".
He says he would like to believe it was his acting ability, rather than
his looks, that won him the Neighbours part, but he admits: "I guess that's what
I'd like to think, you know? I guess I don't want to think it's only because...
perhaps that I'm a pretty face."
Like many a Neighbours star before him, Mitchell has musical ambitions. As
well as acting, he sings and plays guitar with the Melbourne band Tin Canal and
hopes it will lead to a pot of gold.
He's aware of the cynics. "I'm sure I'll have lots of criticism - another
soap star trying to put out a record ... I guess I understand why people get
sceptical. I don't think it's fair, but I'll put up with it."
Mitchell's new Neighbours character is solicitor Cameron Hudson, who
agrees to represent his distraught aunt, Pam Willis (Sue Jones), when she's
charged with murder. Her chances, says Mitchell, are "pretty good".