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.

“Well cast, well acted and wonderfully staged”.

NODA have reviewed our last production, ‘Sex Cells’ and the review is attached below.

Thanks to NODA and all of their reps for the support ove rthe last twenty years.

SEX CELLS a play performed by ‘Too Friendly Theatre Company’ on Saturday, 18th May, 2019 at The Little Theatre, Houghton Street, Southport.

Written by Anne Longaretti in 2012, this play is set in a busy call centre, where four female employees take telephone orders for Aphrodite’s, a sex toy manufacturer. Beneath the cheerful customer service and easy banter, lies four very different women, who all nurse their own desires and disappointments.
I would suggest that there are no leading actors in this play, just a cast of five, four females and a male coming together to work very well as a ‘team’; a team that was well cast and who provided some wonderfully interesting characters. We are never told how these four disparate ladies get thrown together in a sex shop… but do we need to know!
The start of the play sees us ‘introduced’ to our four female ‘call centre workers’………
Star employee ‘Lillian’ – ‘Lily’ played by Tracy Holmes-Smith, a mature lady who is stuck in a loveless marriage and living her life estranged from her son; she buries her pain in wisecracks and work. Tracy handled this role really well; the telephone conversation with her ‘estranged son’ in Act One was ‘believable’ and ‘full of emotion’ a real highlight for me! Jenny Roby gave a thoughtful emotional performance as ‘Sylvie’ the French woman desperate to have a baby and who, after several unsuccessful IVF attempts, becomes so obsessed with pregnancy that she barley talks about anything else. Jenny was well cast and believable in this role as was Joanne Wasilew who played the part of ‘Janice’, a working mum with five children who barely has time for herself let alone her husband. Joanne always gives credible performances and as ‘Janice’ she was able to show the many sides of the character, well done. Jen Johnson as ‘Tiffany’ was impressive as the young, single, ‘Essex Girl’, who was looking for ‘the one’ whilst still being very wary of sacrifice her independence.
Making up the ‘team’ was the sole male, the gentle and innocent manager Mr. Causeway played ever so well by Mark Haygarth. Mr Causeway attempts to diffuse all the tension between his staff while suppressing his longstanding crush on the oblivious Lily.


The Cast

Two ‘outstanding’ features for me from this play were the ‘telephone conversations’ made by all four girls to/with their customers. The conversations were so ‘believable’ and ‘real’… so much so, I felt I could actually hear what the customers were asking for… which was very scary! Well done girls! The second outstanding feature was whenever any of the cast, especially Mr Causeway, were on stage and not actually ‘in the scene’ they all stayed in character … making the scene(s) much more ‘real’! Well done everyone, that isn’t always easy to achieve.
The staging was simplistic but effective and created an effective backdrop for the production, congratulations to Sue Fryer (Stage Manager). The props were very good throughout and well-managed. The costumes too, were very good and in keeping with the piece. The lighting quality was excellent throughout – thanks to Stephen Illingworth for achieving that.

This really was a poignant play that dealt with so many issues….motherhood, adoption, IVF, friendship, love, loss and so much more!

All five actors really did work their ‘socks off’. They took us on their own personal emotional journey whilst providing us with some great characterisation and so much to reflect upon…well done! There was so much I liked about this production, yet I just felt something was missing, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what that was!

Jo Wasilew as Janice

Congratulation to Director Cliff Gillies on a great job with this play, it was well cast, well acted and wonderfully staged.

Congratulations also to the ‘Too Friendly Theatre Company’ who celebrate their 20th Anniversary this year; on behalf of NODA I’d like to congratulate everyone involved with Too Friendly Theatre Company for reaching this wonderful ‘milestone’ in their history.