Interview: Anthony Sottile on Manuel and moustaches

After last week’s interview with Rebecca Fortuna, let’s meet another actor who’s in Faulty Towers the Dining Experience at Adelaide Fringe: Anthony Sottile!

Anthony graduated from Sydney Theatre school, and has been with Interactive Theatre International (ITI)—the company that produces the show—since 2010.  

Anthony graduated from Sydney Theatre school, and has been with Interactive Theatre International (ITI) – the company that produces the show – since 2010, starring in countless performances as Manuel. He’s travelled across the world to do so – from UK and Europe, to the far corners of the Philippines, past Adelaide Fringes, and loads more besides. You could say, he’s done ’em all!

As the show’s flustered Spanish waiter, dodging his boss’ wavering temper, just trying to do his best, Manuel is often tasked with situations he doesn’t quite understand and must figure them out in any way he can… with hilarious results.

Anthony describes the character as resembling an energetic Labrador. Read on to see why! 

J: What are the key features of becoming Manuel? Does having the actual moustache make it easier to transform? 

A: His mannerisms, gestures, and the way he moves are the key features that I focus on. It’s like a two-hour gym workout.

With the original BBC Manuel, Andrew Sachs, he was so brilliant that his facial features alone could convey so much. His dialogue was so sparse, but he conveyed so much emotion and confusion, that he made it into the character that we know today. And he did it just with his face. For me, that’s what it is.

I normally sport the moustache for the entire year, but over Christmas break this time I shaved it off. I’m only just starting to grow it back in now, so I’m all scruffy. It takes me about three weeks to grow a proper moustache.

However, it’s purely a logistical thing for me. Back in 2011 I did Edinburgh Fringe, where I did 11 shows a week for about four weeks. By the end my lip was so sore from using Spirit Gum to put on a fake one for every show. So, I’ve decided to grow it in myself ever since. But, when I’m off I shave it so I’m not just seeing Manuel in the mirror everyday!

J: The audience grows to see how Manuel is misunderstood. Do you think he handles himself well under the circumstances? Is he actually as dense as Basil makes him out to seem?

A: I don’t think so, no. Manuel’s not an idiot, he just takes everything at face-value. He may misinterpret a word and take it for something else, but he puts himself into it

wholeheartedly. That’s what he believes the instruction is, so 100% that’s his task and he’ll do his best to complete it.

Regarding his relationship to Mr. Faulty, he’s kind of like a Labrador – he’ll do anything to please his master but at the same time is slightly afraid. He still respects him because he’s top dog.

He’s just such a loveable character and I think that’s why everyone identifies with him so well.

J: When Manuel does speak, he’s got quite a mix of dialects. How’s your Spanish?  

A: It’s pretty terrible. It’s kind of like my Italian – I have an Italian background – I understand it better than I can speak it. It takes me too long to think of how to conjugate words, put sentences together and actually get it out there before the person’s responded. It’s really quite similar to Italian actually. After all, they say they’re both romantic languages.

If people try to talk to me in Spanish, I can usually gauge a good idea of what they’re trying to say. When that happens, hopefully Basil or Sybil are close by to come rescue me. They’ll usually tell them ‘no no, don’t speak to him in Spanish; he must learn English!’.

I remember one time there was a lovely lady from Brazil speaking to me in Spanish, and I was able to cut her off in the way of getting really excited. I flipped it around to change it into English and asked her where she was from. When she responded I said ‘that’s not Spain!’.

J: Speaking of accents, you’ve certainly got this one down! Considering you’re an Australian playing a Spainard trying to learn English, how did you go about this?

A: I love the times where you can start off learning an accent with a catchphrase. It’s really about having the ear for it. But I’m terrible at accents! Though for whatever reason, the Spanish one came really easy to me. I find it easier to do a Spanish accent then to do an Italian accent

J: You’ve been a part of ITI productions for years now. We are now spread out to 41 countries. Do you have any favourites?

A: I’ve been here for over nine and a half years now, yes. I started back in May of 2010. I’ve been in Australia and England course, India, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Cyprus, Belgium, and New Zealand.

So, it’s hard to choose an absolute favourite! I must admit that probably the best places for me, besides Australia, were Belgium and Norway. The audiences just hang onto every word of the performances, and play along so well with the characters. You just feed off of their energy. You feel like you’re on cloud nine.

J: The last time you were in Adelaide was in 2018. How do you feel about going back, and what makes this one so special?

A: I love Adelaide and the Fringe in particular. If I could choose one out of the year to do, it’s definitely this one. The atmosphere is kind of similar to that of Edinburgh, which is a monster on its own.

But what I love about Adelaide is that a lot of it is condensed together, so you can get from one venue to the next quite easily. It’s not so spaced out that you can’t get everywhere.

And at the Stamford Plaza, we’re right in the heart of it, and we’re conveniently located across from the train station. I enjoy it a lot. Adelaide itself is a lovely city to get around. There’s a lot to do and see especially during the Festival season. Check out the Adelaide Hills, the wineries, and the gardens. We want to get South Australia on the map!

And after that, catch me at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival for more laughs!

Anthony plays Manuel in Faulty Towers The Dining Experience at the production’s 13th Adelaide Fringe, from 21 February-15 March in Stamford Plaza Adelaide.

For information and tickets click here.

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