Reprising the role that won him much critical acclaim, the one-time Neighbours star tells us why he’s no longer on TV

You’re back for a new run of Defending The Cave Man in London. It’s a great play and very funny …
The fact that it’s trying to explain men to women, that’s where a lot of the humour comes from. It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t seen it. They’re like: ‘What a daggy title. Is it some sort of sexist thing?’

If anything it’s a bit feminist …
Yeah feminists are right on it – they like it. And blokes too. I get 50-year-old blokes coming up to me and going: ‘Ah thanks mate – I didn’t know what was going on’. I get a lot of job satisfaction out of this job … it’s been hard doing the political theatre thing during the Russell Brand era, cos no one wanted to hear it. They wanted to hear about Russell Brand’s winkie. It doesn’t seem political but it is a political piece – it’s good human politics.

And just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Well, there’s not much theatre I’ve done where by the end of the play I have an audience falling back in love with each other. I get canoodling and kissing and hugging before my eyes. As simple as this piece is, there’s a lot of love in it, and it spreads around the room.

Your wife Cathy Farr directs. You’ve been married for yonks now, what’s your secret?
It’s 28 years on Valentine’s Day – makes it easy for me to remember my anniversary! My secret? What’s her secret! I dunno how she’s done it [laughs]. Well, we’re in love, I think that helps. We have the same sense of humour and the same political beliefs. It sounds daggy and all but that’s what pushes you through.

Why don’t we see you on TV any more? It seems like a total waste of talent.
Thanks. Well things were promising there for a while, but then came the noughties bland-out with comedians thinking that they’re the next rock stars, when really they’re just a bunch of dags talking about their doodles … There’s not much telly around unless I want to go into the jungle or that stupid Big Brother house. And I’m also in people’s heads as Joe Mangel. He’s a bit of a double-edged sword – I get good press out of Joe Mangel when I need to get bums on seats, but he’s also stopped me doing a lot of work.

If Neighbours decided to bring Joe back from Toby’s farm in WA, would you be tempted?
Oh look if they had some money I would, but they haven’t got any money … I went back to a reunion a few years back but there was something afoot … then it went to channel Five.

You live in Brighton. A few famous Aussies live there, including Nick Cave. Do you ever see him?
I do! Talk about smash the gothic rock god image when you see him walking around with his kids, buying ice creams down the beach. It’s like: ‘Wait on, that’s Nick Cave putting money in the parking meter – that’s not right!’ Brighton’s a bit of a mix of Bondi and St Kilda – without the beach, but it’s got that esplanade feel. I can see why Aussies gravitate here.

» Defending The Caveman, Leicester Square Theatre, 5 Leicester Pl, WC2H 7BX (020 7492 1593; defendingthe  Leicester Square. Until Feb 21. £25-£35

Words: Alison Grinter