Alumni Spotlight: Vinnie Monachello

We recently sat down with MA Acting graduate Vinnie Monachello, who after leaving us in 2017 has embarked on multiple national tours including family productions of In The Night Garden and The Secret Garden, as well as most recently the Disney musical Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Read on to find out about Vinnie’s journey through Mountview and beyond.

Photo by Yellow Belly Photography

How did you get into acting?  

I didn’t get into it in a conventional way. I know lots of people do acting when they’re really young, but I did none for the majority of my younger life. But when I was at sixth form, they were doing a production of The Merchant of Venice and my friend dragged me to the auditions – they were looking for stage crew which I thought I could do, but I didn’t want to act. I was sitting in this classroom and everyone was doing monologues – I thought ‘I do not want to do that!’. But then eventually the guy running the audition said ‘just get up and read something’. I was panicking, but I read a small extract from a scene and I got a small part. Out of nowhere I was suddenly in the show – it was ridiculous! That was my first taste.  

That happy accident was a great discovery for me. I got a bit of a thrill from it. I started to do things here and there outside of school. But it was when I got to university that I started looking into societies – I studied Philosophy at UCL before going to Mountview and there I started doing drama and musical theatre. In my third year I did a production of Parade. We got chosen to go to the National Student Drama Festival where I won the award for Best Actor and got a Spotlight membership from that. That’s what got the ball rolling in terms of doing it professionally – this series of accidents lead me here. I thought ‘oh, I’m on Spotlight and now I’m a proper actor. Where has this come from?’ But that’s when I decided to apply for drama school, and it went from there.  

Why did you choose Mountview? 

My first interaction with Mountview was through the director Tamara Harvey. She was part of the judging panel at NSDF giving out the awards. I started talking to her and she invited me to come into Mountview when she was directing a musical there, to sit in on some of the sessions. I got to come and see the building, chat to some of the students and get a flavour of what it was like.  

I also knew some people who had trained on the MA course before me, singing its praises. I thought I should check it out. Then when I looked into the course I really liked it, because it was so holistic in its focus on the performance side but also the creative side of writing your own work and collaborating with people. Also there were singing lessons as part of the Acting course, which has helped me loads now that I’m doing a lot of Musical Theatre. Things like combat training as well – I really enjoyed the variety of what we could do.  

Leatherhead Rep, The Railway Children | photo by Mark Turner

Are there any highlights looking back on your time at Mountview?

One of the things that sticks out is the Shakespeare project. We did As You Like It, and I got to play Touchstone. Paul Rider was directing it and he was really good at bringing out my clownish, playful side. At first I was a bit apprehensive about it as I hadn’t played that kind of jester character before. But Paul was helping me bring things from my own life into the role – one of my jobs at the time was clowning for kids parties and I told Paul about all the slapstick comedy I did and making balloon party animals. He said ‘why don’t we just make Touchstone a literal clown then and dress in your outfit’. He just took it and ran with it. It taught me how to be fearless in the rehearsal room and experiment, to go mad and have fun without being too self conscious. It’s a safe space to be silly and have a good time. I really appreciated that.  

Apart from that, the people were a general highlight. Whether that’s the teachers or the people on the course I grew really close to. My now fiancé I met on the course – yes that happened! I’m really grateful for everyone I met! 

How did you find the transition from training into the industry?  

The first six months I found quite hard, which I think is really normal. Drama school does as much as it can to prepare you but the real world is its own separate beast. But I came to the realisation that even if I was auditioning and not getting parts right away, what I was doing was still really valuable – meeting people, gaining my confidence and realising that the skills I learned at Mountview could now be transferred into the audition rooms and demonstrating that I know what I’m doing.  

I remember one session we had at Mounview with Jacqui Somerville who was the head of the MA course at the time. She was preparing us for the audition room. She sat in a seat and called us forward one-by-one to stand in front of her as she pretended to be the director in an audition room. All we had to do was the ‘Hi, how are you?’ initial interaction – if we were motor mouthing we would get cut and go back. It was in a jovial and funny way, but it taught us that everything makes an impact. Even the first impression can count. You want to be as relaxed as possible and show them who you are, you don’t want to put forward a superficial version of yourself. It was good to work on those small details and eventually feel like I’m going into an audition room and just being me, rather than a perfect version of myself.  

The general transition as I started to get jobs was good because I started to pick up small skills with each job as I went along. I’d get a job that had some puppetry in it, or I’d get a job that had some singing so I could hone my singing skills. It was almost a continuation of the training at Mountview – it was all one long journey in an upward curve. Building the skills so I’d have more USP’s and more I could bring to the table. 

What have been your career highlights so far?  

I’ve recently done Bedknobs and Broomsticks which was one of the most epic productions I’ve ever been in, in terms of the scale of it but also the magic that was involved. The technical side of that and learning how to hoodwink an audience into thinking that something has disappeared in front of their very eyes. Also just the level of skill in the cast, I was in awe of all the talent around me. I loved the project itself – it was such a beautiful story and the puppetry in it was beautiful. It was directed in a really focussed and specific way to bring the puppets to life. I got so many skills out of it. Also I was a swing which means I had to be ready to pounce on one of many parts in a minute’s notice, which I often had to do. It made me feel like I was prepared for anything and could juggle loads of tracks in my head.  

Have you had any mentors or influential figures that have stood out on your journey so far?  

The people that have stood out the most for me are often my peers. In Bedknobs, the puppetry captain was so knowledgeable and really helped me refine my skills. That’s a really unique relationship when you have someone who is a friend but who you can also learn from – it doesn’t feel like there’s any barriers there. Also my fellow swings – we were such a team and we were always learning from eachother.  

Also because I trained in acting and not musical theatre, having those musical theatre friends and influences has been incredible. One of my friends Lake is an incredible singer and performer. In our free time they would help me work on riffing or belting or whatever.  

But on the flipside, people on the creative team who are able to speak to you on that same level are really good mentors. Laura Bangay who was the Musical Director on Bedknobs and Broomsticks – I always felt like that was a relaxed relationship and I didn’t feel any pressure when I was singing a song in the room, it felt really natural and easy.  

Do you have any dream projects for the future? 

When I was at UCL I discovered how much I wanted to do acting and musical theatre. So the projects I did while I was in the society there have a special place in my heart now. I always think it would be such a huge achievement if I could do that professionally now. I did a production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead which is a Tom Stoppard play, a riff on Hamlet essentially. I got to play Rosencrantz. The play combined everything I love – it was really philosophical combined with crazy comedy and we got to be really goofy. So if that came around and I could play that part or be involved in the production in some way that would be awesome.  

In terms of Musical Theatre projects there’s loads of stuff I would enjoy doing; Little Shop of Horrors, Matilda. Stuff that I can see myself in and I love the music in them.   

Is there anything you’re currently working on?  

The most recent thing I’ve done was with Rob Madge – My Son’s a Queer but What Can You Do? It’s an incredible show about discovering their Queer identity and being non-binary and about their parents supporting them being who they are. They were asked to perform at West End Live and instead of performing solo which they would normally do, they decided to invite some of their Queer friends to be a singing ensemble with them. They created loads of harmonies and a whole new track. We performed that at West End Live which was my first time – I got such a buzz from it and it felt like it went way too fast! Now they’ve decided to do a cast recording of it, so we did that recently. I believe it will soon be out on Spotify with a whole soundtrack of the show.