Career on stage beckons for child actor who beats her dyslexia

Fabienne Clarke.
Fabienne Clarke.
Have your say

This inspirational young singer and actress from Leeds suffers from severe dyslexia – but she never lets it stand in her way.

In fact, nine-year-old Fabienne Clarke has starred in several TV shows since she began acting aged four – and is now looking forward to reprising her role in the stage musical South Pacific.

Fabienne, a pupil at Moorlands School in Headingley, has played small roles in Emmerdale, Spooks and BBC drama Five Days, which starred Suranne Jones.

She takes singing lessons in her school and has drama classes with a private tutor, as well as attending the Tonicha Lawrence drama school in Scarcroft.

Her mum Paula Hannan-Clarke, 44, said: “Fabienne never lets anything get her down and she’s always full of confidence.

“We’ve spoken about auditions and how there’s lots of competition for roles, but she just lets it go over her head. She doesn’t dwell on things and get upset.

“From the age of about two I noticed there was something different about her. She was very confident and would stand up and perform and sing songs. She loves singing and she has a beautiful voice.

“Her dyslexia means she can struggle at school in certain subjects, but when it comes to learning scripts, she’s unbelievable.

“She will have all her lines memorised in half an hour. On the set of Five Days, the director called her a one-take wonder.”

Fabienne auditioned for the lead child role of Ngana in South Pacific last August and performed at Manchester’s Palace Theatre in October, alongside Finton Flynn – who played Russ Gray in Coronation Street – as Jerome.

The show, which features ex-EastEnders star Samantha Womack in the lead role of Nellie Forbush, returned to the theatre for a five-night run starting yesterday. (March 13)

Provided Fabienne doesn’t grow too much, she hopes to continue playing Ngana when the show visits Leeds Grand Theatre in June.

Paula, who lives in Adel with Fabienne, her husband Jeff, 44, and son Oliver, six, added: “I’m not a pushy mum and I don’t bully my child – she just loves what she’s doing and I think she has something special.

“It’s what she’s always wanted to do; she always says she’s going to be famous.

“Whether she will be or not, I don’t know, but she has something about her that makes people really like her.”