You will probably have heard of the McGann brothers? – a family of four boys who grew up in Liverpool and who have all made names for themselves as professional
actors. I first became aware of them, I think, when I saw The Hanging Gale on television in the mid-90s, in which all four played brothers in an Irish family at the time of the great potato famine.

Well, Mark McGann moved to Frome three years ago, and having spent most of his life performing as an actor and musician on stage, TV and film – he got Olivier Award nominations for his first major performance as John Lennon in 1981, and for his role in Up On The Roof in 1987, for which he was also Musical Director – Mark has diversified into directing and into education.

He has started up a company called Drama Direct and runs training courses for people who are serious about acting – both on stage and film. My wife, Heather, and I booked ourselves onto one of his stage courses and spent a really exciting and fulfilling Sunday in November at the Merlin Theatre, Frome.

Mark had sent us each a piece to look at a couple of weeks in advance. Heather had the part of Sister Aloysius in the play Doubt, where she is giving Father Flynn a very hard time, and I had the part of Sean in Good Will Hunting where he is taking Will to task.

We had learnt our parts pretty thoroughly, and it was a joy to rehearse our scenes with actors whom we had never met before, under the sensitive and supportive (but nonetheless demanding) direction of Mark. We both felt we had learnt such a lot about acting as a result, but I also really enjoyed watching Mark working with the other couples, and felt that I had also gained a great deal of insight into the process of directing.

For me, the most important lesson of the day was not to internalise; to see the world through my character’s eyes, and to react as him, not me. It is obviously a very successful and popular formula – several of the people on our course had been before, but Mark tries to keep numbers down to 8-12 people each time so as to give everyone plenty of attention, so if you are interested you will need to book well ahead. You may also need to save up a bit – it costs £70 per person, but it is
money very well spent.

Philip De Glanville

New Dates for Masterclasses at Merlin Theatre Frome are:




call 01373 471 486 to book a place or email


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