Person - Mark McManus

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MARK McMANUS (1935 - 1994)

Mark McManus fell into acting by accident but his talent was obvious. He played the young prisoner Scholara in The Quare Fellow 1959, Valere in Tartuffe 1960, All My Sons 1960, Mitchell in Lawson 1961, and The Drums of Father Ned 1961 by which time he found NT lacking in vitality. McManus also participated in Workshops, was in a reading of Len Fox's Fun and Games 1960, reviewed plays for the newsletter Spotlight!, was a regular attendee at NT meetings, and a delegate to the 1960 National Conference in Melbourne. A natural tenor with a pure singing voice, he played Irish in Reedy River 1960 and was a member of Chris Kempster’s group The Rambleers. His close NT friends were Jack Armitage and Bill Juliff. McManus resigned at the end of 1961, saying that he’d turned down other performance offers and his interest, acting, had become "a chore". At the time of his involvement with NT, his day job was in a printery and he was studying at Tech at night.

The son of a miner, McManus was born near Glasgow on 21 February 1935. He left school with few qualifications and went down the pit but at age 22 migrated to Australia, settling in Sydney where he made money as a welterweight boxer and docker (the only blue-eyed one in a gang of Greeks who worked in temperatures up to 110 degrees). Through an uncle he joined NT at Castlereagh Street where he was in Marie Armstrong’s tap dancing class. Charming and energised, he was immediately attractive to women. In 1961 he married NT member Naomi Stirling who had played Elmire in Tartuffe. She soon realised he was a philanderer, and during The Drums of Father Ned sat backstage knitting to keep an eye on him. The marriage lasted a short time and they had no children. McManus had long affairs with at least two NT women.

After leaving NT he worked with the Old Tote, notably in The Country Wife, followed by The Knack in Adelaide and Luv and Is Australia Really Necessary? at the Phillip Street Theatre. He won a Best TV Performance Award for Channel 2's Ballad for One Gun. In 1967 he was reviewed as engaging and charming as the lead Kipps with top billing (Peter Drake and Howard Vernon were also in it) in a J C Williamsons production of Half a Sixpence. After that finished its run he was cast in the film 2000 Weeks released in 1969; on this he said he learned a more relaxed technical approach and greater truthfulness in performance. He also worked in Skippy and Homicide before leaving Australia in 1971 to live in Britain.

McManus worked on his Scottish accent when he was cast as the lead in the television series Taggart, first broadcast in 1983. A heavy drinker, he played the role for eleven years until his death in Glasgow on 6 June 1994, eight months after the passing of his second wife Marion. According to an obituary his hobby was breeding butterflies.

Mark McManus has a Wikipedia entry.


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