Marcus Clarke was born in Forest Gate, East London. He spent several years in Canada, Care and in NCH orphanages before being settled in West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire where he left West Bridgford School, his local comprehensive school with no qualifications. After a series of jobs behind the scenes in theatres, he became stage manager in a West End production of Little Shop Of Horrors, where he looked after Audrey II – the giant plant. He became interested in the art of puppetry. Clarke went on to audition for Jim Henson's TV Puppeteering Workshop.
Inspired in part by Henson, he and his partner, Helena Smee, formed a puppet creation company, "Hands Up Puppets", in 1986. To date, they have created more than 60 puppets and worked as puppeteers on a similar number of UK television series.