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Like other soaps, Neighbours has never been one to let characters’ ages get in the way of a plot device or re-introduction of a character. In what has been called SORAS (Soap Opera Rapid Ageing Syndrome), characters often return after a period away – sometimes months, sometimes years – considerably older than they should be upon their return.
The first case of SORAS in Ramsay Street was, appropriately enough, in the family that has the most recorded cases of it – the Robinsons. Young Lucy Robinson headed off for a trip around Europe in 1987 aged 12. When she returned three months later, she had aged by about two years.
The condition was to return to afflict Lucy's niece Hannah in 1992. Although Hannah hadn't been seen in the series before, her parents, Julie and Philip, had. They were last seen moving off to get married in late 1985. At that stage, Hannah hadn't been born – but when Julie and Philip returned 7 years later, they somehow managed to have an 8-year-old daughter in the form of Hannah.
Serena Bishop was another example of apparently being conceived before her parents had even met. Serena joined the cast in 2003 as a 15 year-old teenager. But her father David had previously been on the show back in 1988. At that time, David was a bachelor and had never even heard of her mother Liljana. Yet somehow by the time he returned 14 years later, he had sired the 15-year-old Serena with Liljana.
The most recent example of SORASing on Neighbours has been in the Robinson family where Lucinda Robinson has followed in the footsteps of her aunt and namesake Lucy and aged by about three years. Although Lucinda, or Elle as she is known, was never in the show prior to 2005, her mother Gail was last seen in 1989 leaving Ramsay Street heavily pregnant with Lucinda and her brothers Cameron and Robert. This meant that Elle and her brothers should only have been 16 when we finally clapped eyes on them in 2005. Instead, they were 19 year olds – and were in the interesting position of being older than the character Sky Mangel, aged 18, who was a living, breathing toddler and often cared for by Gail long before she became pregnant with the triplets.
Other cases of a SORAS related nature include the fluctuating age of Jack Scully, who was initially the second Scully child, older than Flick by a year or two, but somehow slipped to third Scully child when he returned in 2002 and found himself in Year 12 at Erinsborough High. However, he appeared to regain his position as the second eldest Scully by the time he had left school and developed a drug habit. And one of the earliest Ramsay Street teens, Cody Willis, left Australia for a scholarship in the States when she was 15, but upon her return three years later, she was only 17 and faced another year of school.
Next up, is the turn of Louise 'Lolly' Carpenter. Last seen in 2001, Louise was then a cute 7-year-old kid played by Jiordan Anna Tolli, but now, five years on, it's been confirmed that 15-year-old Adelaide Kane will be taking over the role. Louise should only be a mere 12, so it looks like the grand tradition of Rapid Ageing Syndrome in Ramsay Street is set to continue, perhaps with the likes of Andrew Robinson or Ben Kirk appearing in Erinsborough someday a lot older than we'd expect them to be.