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The grass is green on Vivean Gray’s side of the fence
Neighbours closes 1986 with a Christmas episode… and there are big changes coming in 1987...
Few people would enjoy having a next-door neighbour like television’s Mrs Mangel but, in real life, actress Vivean Gray’s neighbours think she is a sheer delight! When Vivean moved into her weatherboard cottage in Melbourne recently, it was probably just as well that her new neighbours, Bill and Phill Jones, were not familiar with the role she plays in the popular Network Ten series, Neighbours. If they were, they might have been concerned that meddling Mrs Mangel had come to pry and make trouble in their quiet street.
But Nell Mangel and Vivean Gray are as different as chalk and cheese, as Vivean is a likeable, gentle woman who enjoys her privacy – and wouldn’t dream of prying into people’s affairs. “Bill and Phill are a delightful couple,” said Vivean. “We often have chats over the fence. I’m a very new neighbour to them because they’ve lived in that house for nearly 50 years. They moved there after they married and raised a family together. They’re very kind people. I feel lucky to have such lovely neighbours.”
The Jones have changed their TV habits since Vivean moved in next door. “We make sure we watch Neighbours now!” said Bill with a hearty laugh. Vivean is single and her full and active life is a far cry from all the narrow-minded and frustrated characters she has played on television – like Mrs Mangel and Mrs Jessop in the long-running series, The Sullivans. But Vivean has a soft spot for the characters she has played.
“I admit that I enjoy these roles,” she said. “I can get my acting teeth into those parts rather than sweet-natured bland characters. Mrs Jessop and Mrs Mangel are sisters under the skin, although Nell is a little blacker and more unpleasant than Mrs Jessop, who had a heart of gold beneath her meddling behaviour. Nell Mangel is very strong, very resilient and she gives as good as she gets. She will stand up for her rights. But you do get the occasional glimpses of a deep sympathy for people who are in trouble.”
Vivean arrived in Australia from England in the late 1950s and tried her hand at countless jobs before she found television work. “I’ve been able to observe so many people in different situations. It has all helped me to create fully-rounded characters.”
Surprisingly, Vivean receives fan mail from some viewers. The reaction she gets in public, however, is mixed. “I find it’s teenage girls who are inclined to give me a hard time. I think I represent some kind of authority figure. Older people are more amused by Mrs Mangel’s antics. I think they see more of the funny side of the character. But they’re still thankful they don’t have anyone like that living next door!”
Unlike Nell Mangel, Vivean Gray understands the art of being a good neighbour and Bill and Phill Jones have nothing to complain about.
This article originally appeared in Woman's Day magazine dated 5th October 1987 and was written by Jenny Trustram