Ray Meagher leaves Home for Away

Summer Bay has lost its longest-term resident to London, but (thankfully) the move isn't permanent.

Ray Meagher, 66, who plays Alf Stewart in iconic Australia soap Home and Away, has escaped Australia's steamy summer to embrace the UK winter, where he has taken on a role in the stage version of the camp classic, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert on London's West End.

Meagher is the longest continuing performer on Home and Away, and the only original cast member, having appeared in the first episode which was broadcast in 1988.

However, British audiences hoping to catch a glimpse of "Alf" in drag will be sorely disappointed, as the Aussie plays the role of Bob the mechanic -- originally played by Bill Hunter in the film -- which is a character who stays far away from stilettos in favour of slacks and overalls.

"It's very basic, knockabout workman-type Aussie," Meagher told the Sydney Morning Herald, regarding his character's choice of wardrobe.

The successful musical is based on the cult Australian film from 1994, which starred Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Terrence Stamp.

But Meagher thinks that the stage production far outdoes the film interpretation.

"I saw the film a long, long, long, long time ago and thought 'gee, you know, that's different sort of stuff and ground-breaking and nobody's tackled that subject matter, and all the rest of it', and I remember thinking the film was pretty good," he said.

"But I don't know whether my memory is a bit dull or what, but I think the stage show is just a far better viewing experience."

Meagher will join a stellar cast on the production, including Don Gallagher, Ben Richards and Oliver Thornton.

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is currently playing at the Palace Theatre in London, with Ray Meagher performing until the end of March.

Following his six-month stint in the production, he will return to his familiar role as Home and Away's Alf Stewart, as if nothing had ever happened.

Check out one of Ray Meagher's proudest moments, when he won the Gold Logie at the Logie Awards 2010.

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