Review Of William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play.

NODA have released the review of the show:

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARSE LONG LOST FIRST PLAY a play performed by ‘Too Friendly Theatre Company’ on Thursday, 26th September, 2019 at The Civic, Southport Road, Ormskirk.

Playwrights Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor weave together some of the most famous speeches and plot devices of Shakespeare’s thirty-nine plays to create a fast, funny, and fictional fortieth, filled with witty wordplay and vaudevillian variety.Discovered in a treasure-filled parking lot in Leicester, England (next to a pile of bones that didn’t look
that important), an ancient manuscript proves to be the long-lost first play written by none other than seventeen -year-old William Shakespeare from Stratford. We are totally not completely making this up.William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged) is the literary Holy Grail: an actual manuscript in Shakespeare’s own hand showing all his most famous characters and familiar speeches in a brand-new story; but, because it is one hundred hours long and contains multiple unwieldy storylines, Too Friendly Theatre Company have decided, as a public service, to abridge it down to a brief and palatable ninety minutes and perform the world premiere of this lost masterpiece.

‘To be or not to be – that is the question’; one of Shakespeare’s most famous quotations taken from ‘Hamlet’…but my less famous quotations is ……‘To start or where to start – that is MY question’……. Not being a great follower of ‘The Bard’, it was somewhat of a daunting challenge/experience attending this production. What I did realise as the plot unfolded, was just how many ‘Shakespearean characters and quotes’ I did actually know!   After saying that, I do believe the success and the enjoyment of this play isn’t down to your knowledge of Shakespeare (although it would help); but down to the ability and energy of the ‘actors’ in creating believable, recognisable, individual characters who we meet along the way (some of whom, by the way, have no connection to Shakespeare at all) and in doing so, bringing those characters to life.  ‘How best to describe this play’ – ‘Total Mishmash’ of everything Shakespearean …a ‘Roller Coaster’ of a Production, with so many highs and lows…one minute ‘belly laughing’, next minute ‘completely lost in dialogue’. Thirty nine Shakespearian plays reduced to just ninety minutes – ‘crazy!’

The story line pits an ‘ancient grudge’ between ‘Puck’ (Joanne Wasilew) from a ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘Ariel’ (Tracy Holmes –Smith) from ‘The Tempest’ or was she from Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ who knows!  It also allows Lady Macbeth (Jen Johnson) to nag Hamlet (Neil Woods), Falstaff (Neil Woods) to offer his ‘Kingdom for a Whore’ and for a stage struck Richard (Cliff Gillies) to become a Vaudevillian (if that is actually a word).  The results… ‘mistaken identities’, ‘ghosts’, ‘magical spells’, ‘terrible tempests’, ‘men dressed as women’, ‘women dressed as men’ and ‘twins, twins, twins’.‘Too Friendly’ did a great job in ‘staging’ this ‘extremely wordy and complex play’….so congratulations to Joanne Wasilew (Director) first time directing for ‘Too Friendly’, for ‘pulling’ this total ‘mishmash’ together – I can only think it must have taken a great deal of hard work but with many, many laughs along the way!The success of this play is definitely reliant on ‘team togetherness’ and that was evident throughout.  From ‘first curtain to finale’, the energy and enthusiasm shown, was there for all to see. It was obvious that everyone on stage was enjoying being part of ‘The Team’, so it would be remiss of me to start identifying individual cast members without perhaps doing injustice to others.  The play commenced with the cast introducing themselves using their own names…Joanne Wasilew, (not only directing but playing ‘Herself’, ‘Puck’, ‘2nd Witch’, Pompey, Henry IV, Henry V); Tracy Holmes-Smith, (playing Herself,  ‘Ariel’, ‘1st Witch’, ‘Dromio’, ‘Petruchio’, ‘Caliban’ and ‘Kate’); Cliff Gillies, (playing ‘Himself’, ‘Oberon’, ‘Bottom’, ‘William Shakespeare’, ‘The Bear’, ‘Richard II’ and ‘Richard III’);  Neil Woods, (playing ‘Himself, ‘Hamlet’, ‘Falstaff’, ‘King Lear’ and ‘Malvoliagio’); Jen Johnson (playing ‘Herself’, ‘Juliet’, ‘Lady Macbeth’, ‘Viola’, ‘Cleopatra’, ‘Cesario’, ‘Cardenio’ and ‘3rd Witch’) and Sue Fryer (playing ‘Herself’ ‘Antipholus’, ‘Mistress Quickly’, ‘Beatrice’, ‘Prospero’, ‘Caesar’ ‘Pericles’ and
‘Henry VII’).  ‘Multiple roles’ equals ‘multiple costumes’ equals ‘multiple changes’ – all of which were achieved so easily by this talented cast. There were so many wonderful, distinctive characters created – each with their own mannerisms, facial expressions, wigs, beards. The communication with the audience was really good with some audience participation thrown in for good measure. With any ‘wordy production’ – ‘diction/clarity of the spoken word’ is a vital for humour to flow and for the audience to be kept in touch with the fast moving dialogue and action…this was achieved most of the time, there were a few instances where things went a little quiet, but that certainly did not detract from the overall performance, so congratulations to everyone involved. As for the ‘Puck .v. Ariel’ ‘grudge’, well they weren’t alone ‘Shakespeare .v. Disney had a ‘little rumble’ to… lines such as: ‘To be or not to be’, ‘Is this a dagger which I see before me’, ‘Off with his head’ and more, were met with ‘Kiss Da Girl’, ‘You want thingamabobs, I’ve got plenty’ ‘It’s a small world’ and ‘Let it go’…. and how ‘The Taliban’ got in there; oh I remember ‘Caliban/Taliban’ but ‘Who was playing Isis’?
Loved the ‘throw away lines’… ‘Oh my Bard’, ‘Get a Room’, ‘Everyone’s got a great ass/asp’ and when Tracy Holmes Smith appeared dressed as ‘Disney’s Ariel’….outrageous!  Kate Winslett and Titanic even made an appearance – ‘how or why’….’Kiss Me Kate’ perhaps – I forget and it probably didn’t matter!The play is designed to be played on a ‘blank stage’ and that was the case.  Mark Haygarth (Stage Manager/ Lighting) did a great job as did Helen Haygarth (Sound). The ‘props’ and especially the ‘costumes’ were apt and enhanced the production so much. Opening night/small audience…is never easy…but listening to everyone as they left, I know for a fact that everyone left, thoroughly entertained (possibly slightly confused) but with smiles on their face, bellies still sore from laughing, and with a glow in their be proud guys/gals on a great job!

Great to meet you all after the performance, thank you so much for inviting my wife and I and look forward to seeing you all again soon.

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