Just a word...


I was born in Milan and grew up in the beautiful surrounding area of Lake Como. With an English mother and an Italian father, speaking both languages was second nature to me. As was very typical of Italian families, we shared our house with my grandparents but what was not so typical was having a second set of grandparents in London. So off we’d fly once a year (usually Christmas or Easter)
to visit them and sample the British treats we couldn't get in Italy: cheddar cheese; Cadbury's Minirolls; Madame Tussaud's; the double decker bus (top floor of course) and Brent Cross shopping centre! Unlike my sister, who always felt more at home in Italy, I was always strangely more drawn to Britain (London in particular) which is where I ended up moving to for University and subsequently, drama school.

Being in Italy, my school didn’t show much promise in terms of producing theatrical events and we certainly didn’t have drama as a subject we could choose.  We did however have music lessons.  And it was during these music lessons that I developed my passion for performing. It was my music teachers Mr George and Mr Barthel who encouraged me and pushed me. As must be the case with most children who have been introduced to musical theatre,  Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Joseph...’ was my first performance; a concert version and I was cast in the title role with Mr George diligently making sure I was looking after my voice at every opportunity.  I remember the evening as a big success or at least through the eyes of a 12 year old boy it had seemed a triumph and now we’d tasted success we wanted more. “What about next year?” Enter Miss Campbell, a vibrant new teacher with an accent as strong as her feistiness and more importantly, experience in directing!! She teamed up with Mr George in preparation for the next project.  This was going to be, by far, the biggest production the school had ever seen and my first experience of auditioning. The show....‘Oliver!’ I remember there was a dispute over who to cast me as; Mr George thought I should play Oliver whereas Miss Campbell thought I was more suited to the Artful Dodger.  This was a tug of war which unfortunately I’ve seldom experienced again in the real world.  Miss Campbell won, and we ended up having a boy for the role of Oliver  who looked much more angelic than I ever would have!

Although I have always loved performing I can’t really remember what the first show I ever saw was.  My earliest memory of live theatre, whether it was in fact my first time or not, was going to the opera at La Scala in Milan. I was about 10 years old and we were going to see "The Barber of Seville". My mum had bought the record (yes it's that long ago!!!) and as we listened to it, read the story out to me. My parents had booked a box and I was kitted out in my first formal outfit. The day before we were due to go however, I became very ill with a dangerously high temperature and the doctor advised that I should be kept in bed. The disappointment was overwhelming; the planning of the former months and the excitement of it all... gone! My parents decided to wrap me up and take me anyway against the doctor's advice. As we took our seats I remember the atmosphere itself feeling grand; you could almost smell the anticipation. Opera glasses, programmes, the sound of the orchestra tuning, the guilded tier
s of the auditorium and of course the magnificent proscenium framing the plush  red  velvet curtains. It was like something you would expect from an old fashioned movie recreation..... and it was perfect!  As the house lights faded, the conductor took his place and then.. MAGIC. My mum recounts how she couldn't bring herself to watch the stage as she was busy being  mesmerised by my reaction. Apparently, as the music started, I sat forward in my seat and gazed in amazement over the front of the box. Then, as the curtain lifted to reveal the stage, my face lit up and I was gone. I obviously don't know what I looked like but I do still remember the feeling I had; it was like a wave of magnificence had overpowered me, unlike anything I had ever felt. I also remember being completely entranced by it all; my parents could have walked out mid performance and I wouldn't have known.

When we got home that night my fever had gone and 2 days later I was back at school as good as new and the same as before....but in love.”


Mark Manancourt

Mark Manancourt