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The family way
7:00am Saturday 26th May 2012 in NewsXtra
Greg Page of The Wiggles talks about the illness that forced him to leave the popular children's entertainment group for five years, and his delight at rejoining for their forthcoming UK tour.
By Lisa Salmon.
If you've got a young child, chances are you've heard of The Wiggles - particularly if your little one likes singing and dancing.
The Wiggles are the ceaselessly chirpy, energetic and colourful children's entertainment group that rose to fame - at least as far as children are concerned - after releasing their first album in 1991.
Since then, the four men who met while training to be pre-school teachers at university in Australia, have sold 23 million DVDs and seven million CDs, appeared in their own TV shows alongside Wiggles characters such as Dorothy the Dinosaur and Captain Feathersword, and performed to a million people a year on their world tours.
It's been great fun for the band, and it's also been incredibly lucrative - for the four years up to 2007, The Wiggles were Australia's wealthiest entertainers, beating stars including Kylie Minogue and Nicole Kidman. The group was in second place in the Australian entertainment rich list last year.
However, their forthcoming UK and Ireland tour, which kicks off in Cork on May 31, will be the last one for the original line-up, as three of the band - Red Wiggle Murray Cook, Yellow Wiggle Greg Page and Purple Wiggle Jeff Fatt - have decided to hang up their trademark coloured jerseys for good, mainly because they want to spend more time at home in Australia with their families.
But young Wiggles fans need not despair, as three new members - one of them a woman - are joining Blue Wiggle Anthony Field so the band can keep on Wiggling.
The demise of the original line-up has been met cheerfully - of course - by Yellow Wiggle Page, who had only just returned to the band after a five-year absence due to ill-health.
Describing his time with The Wiggles as "an amazing journey", he says: "With Murray and Jeff's decision to stop performing at the end of the year, it's a nice sense of closure to also end my time on stage during the final tour."
Page, 40, originally left The Wiggles in 2006 after developing the condition orthostatic intolerance, which is related to blood pressure.
The problem made it hard for him to perform the band's energetic song and dance routines because it unpredictably affected his balance, breathing and coordination, and made him dizzy.
"Your hands shake, your legs go wobbly. There's a whole range of different symptoms, but the worst one is when you black out and just drop to the floor," he explains.
"For me, that didn't happen all that often - I was very fortunate."
There's no cure for the condition, but Page says it can be managed.
"I now understand it and I can manage it and I'm back doing what I enjoy doing - for a while."
The rest of the band asked him to return to the line-up in January, and he's delighted to be a Wiggle again, albeit briefly.
He says: "It's very physically demanding and it is a challenge, but it's great. I'm extremely fit now, and it shows that if you have this disorder you can deal with it and get on with the rest of your life."
He still gets symptoms occasionally, but no longer needs medication and combats his condition by ensuring he has plenty of salt and water in his diet. The salt aids fluid retention, and helps prevent him becoming dehydrated.
He insists the condition makes no difference to his performances, and enthuses, in true Wiggles style: "Touring so far has proved that there's no problem, and we're ready to rock and roll over to the UK."
Page says rejoining the group is good timing for him, as during his absence he started a new family and has two young children with his second wife Vanessa.
"For a lot of reasons this timing has just worked out perfectly," he admits.
"Before now, our baby would have been too young for me to go away from home. Sometimes some things in life happen for a reason."
He also has an older daughter from his first marriage, and three stepchildren, and admits: "Of course it's difficult to leave them - it's the same for anybody who has to travel for work, but it's not forever.
"Reuniting with the guys and getting the chance to do it again is amazing - not everyone gets a second chance in life."
The singer says The Wiggles have been so successful because of their teacher training background, explaining: "We really connected with the audience.
"There'd never been anything like The Wiggles before we came along - there'd never been a pop group just for children. I think that's what set us apart.
"The secret is in the fact that we genuinely love children, and our background in teaching is what makes The Wiggles connect with children, with the songs and music."
The four Wiggles have written most of the songs, which are on topics such as fruit salad and driving in a car, themselves, and while the subject matter might sound mundane to an adult, Page explains: "A child is doing some of these things for the first time, and children love repetition.
"When you understand a child's mind, it actually becomes quite easy to write songs for them.
"Some of the subject matter might seem quite bizarre, but a child will really connect well with the songs."
He insists The Wiggles never feel at all silly when they're performing, and explains: "You just have to forget about your inhibitions and really let yourself be in the moment.
"The Wiggles are childlike but not childish - we're like children, but we don't talk down to them.
"We never feel silly because we know that it works, and we're there for the children, not for the adults."
He says performing in front of children is "an incredible buzz", and promises the band "can't wait" to get over to the UK to play to British children.
Insisting that the band has never been driven by money or commercial success, he adds: "We've always been motivated by the desire to produce good-quality children's entertainment.
"I think we can say after 21 years that's what we've done."
:: For more information about The Wiggles tour, visit www.thewiggles.com Ask the expert Q: "My husband has a low sperm count and we were thinking of trying to have a baby through the ICSI method of IVF, but have heard there might be more chance of the baby having birth defects with this method. Is it safe?"
A: Dr Allan Pacey, a senior lecturer in andrology at Sheffield University, and chairman of the British Fertility Society, says: "Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) is a remarkable technique that allows men with very poor sperm quality to become biological fathers.
"Prior to its invention in 1992, many couples would have to accept sperm donation, consider adoption or remain childless.
"During ICSI a scientist will pick up individual sperm using a very fine needle and then carefully inject one sperm into each egg collected from the woman.
"According to figures from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in 2010, just over 50% of all IVF cycles performed in the UK used the ICSI procedure. This makes sense, given that up to half of the time infertility is caused by a problem with the male partner.
"Since its invention, doctors and scientists have been carefully monitoring the development and health of the babies born through ICSI.
"Many studies have found that while the vast majority of babies born are healthy, there's a small but measurable increase in the risk of ICSI babies being born with a medical problem; researchers in Australia confirmed this again last week.
"While most problems are small, others can be more serious and may need medical attention. What's not clear, however, is whether these problems occur directly because of the ICSI procedure itself or whether it's because of the underlying infertility being treated. For this reason, ICSI should only be used when medically indicated and there are no other options.
"If you're thinking about undergoing ICSI treatment, you should discuss it with the doctor responsible for your care. He/she will be able to explain the risks as we understand them. Fertility counselling may also be useful."
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