Welcome to Michael Friend Productions
|The Theatre Production
Company established in 1992, touring productions of Classical and Modern
Shaw - Wilde - Coward - Feydeau - J.K.Jerome - Ben Travers - D.H.Wilson - Stella Gibbons - Henry James - Brandon Thomas - A.W.Pinero - Robert Shearman - Molière -Fielding - John Ford - Lewis Dixon - Fredrerick Knott - Alan Ayckbourn - Eric Chapple - Hugh Whitemore - Alan Bennett - Jean Genet - Patrick Hamilton - Arthur Schnitzler - J.B.Priestley - Neil Simon - Karoline Leach - John Goodrum - Stanley Eveling - Bernardo Stella - Richard Harris - Racine
The 23rd SEASON will include:
THE MAN OF DESTINY and
THE FASCINATING FOUNDLING by Bernard Shaw
INTIMATE EXCHANGES - A PAGENT by Alan Ayckbourn
THE PHILANDERER (Original Version) by Bernard Shaw
HEARTBREAK HOUSE by Bernard Shaw
FALLEN ANGELS by Noel Coward
RELATIVELY SPEAKING by Alan Ayckbourn
See CALENDAR for details
ABOUT - Information about earlier seasons - recent productions - and future performances.
MORE - Archive information - cast lists - photographs.
CALENDAR - Dates for your diary.
CONTACT INFO - how to get in touch with MFP - check the availability of plays - email your questions.
NEWS - Productions for 2013.
THE DARK LADY OF THE SONNETS and OVERRULED by Bernard Shaw
THERE'S a sweet George Bernard Shaw double bill taking place in Hampstead right now. The pairing at Pentameters Theatre comes without fancy set dressing or props, instead designer John Dalton has painted a pretty English garden directly to the wall. The Dark Lady of the Sonnets is a swift 30-minute ride pitching Shakespeare as a braggadocios but forgetful self-declared king of words who woos Elizabeth I. Bethany Blake is a striking queen, delivering each line with a regal sharpness against Steven Bradleys laid back Bard. The programme reveals that Shaw campaigned for a National Theatre and it is no accident that Shakespeare in The Dark Lady repeatedly petitions the Queen for such a theatre, one that will eschew his own crowd-pleasing filthy pieces namely Much Ado About Nothing and As You like It. These references make the pairing with Overruled a nice touch from director Michael Friend. First presented in 1912, Overruled was intended by Shaw as a model to all future writers of farcical comedy and follows the wife-swapping confusion of Shakespeares comedies. Mrs Juno and Gregory Lunn have fallen madly in love but managed to avoid discussing their respective spouses, who have also fallen for each other. The tangled foursome spar like in the best screwball comedy and Bradley couldnt keep his own enjoyment of the script from his face. Shaws dialogue is a delight and while the context of extramarital sex may not be as shocking, a small intimate theatre like Pentameters is the ideal venue to enjoy such timeless fun.
THE CAMDEN NEW JOURNAL10 October, 2013 by AMY SMITH
Sarah Thorne Theatre Club, Broadstairs
"There were laughs all round at the Sarah Thorne Theatre Club in Broadstairs for the third instalment of the theatre's summer repertory season - Improbable Fiction. Alan Ayckbourn's comedy w as told superbly by the esteemed players including Nick Fawcett as leading man Arnold, Raymond Daniel-Davies, Chloe Lewis and rep regular Dot Smith. The play tells the story of a group of aspiring writers who just can't finish their works. Nick Fawcett was brilliant as the writers' group chairman, Arnold. He balanced comedy with empathy as he tried to rein in the group and allow everyone their own time to speak. Big laughs came in the second act when events took a bizarre turn. When he found himself immersed in a number of strange scenarios, Arnold began to question himself and Nick portrayed this wonderfully. With so many scene changes and different 'scripts' to learn, the cast were magnificent in performing the fast-paced farce that was the second act. Raymond Daniel-Davies was a joy to watch in the many guises he played including a disgruntled former head teacher, an American sci-fi hero and an old housemaster. Dot Smith is a seasoned rep artiste and never fails to deliver. She has a wonderful stage presence, fast wit and a beautiful method of storytelling. Chloe Lewis is always great to watch. She had a sweet innocence about her as she played the role of Vivie and was complemented by the exceptional talent of Lucas Livesey who made his debut in Broadstairs. Lucas showcased what a fine emerging actor he really is playing a variety of very different roles including the geeky Clem, drunk scheming cousin and a dedicated detective. He was a real treat for the audience and I look forward to seeing him in future productions. Stunning Emma West showed her many strengths as an actress. She was endearing as Grace and hilarious as a future alien-hunter. Making her professional debut was Katie Burchett as the lovable Ilsa. And what a debut to make. She was a real asset to the cast and gave a strong, confident performance. Her on stage chemistry with Nick as Arnold was very good and she portrayed each of her many faces with emotion, control and conviction. For me this play had to be the highlight of the summer rep to date. The artists are a credit to the show's director, Michael Friend and co-producer Michael Wheatley-Ward. It is so refreshing to see a top class production in the comforts of our culturally rich town." Laura Archer, 'Thanet Gazette' 21 August, 2013
PUSS IN BOOTS
"IT'S MAGIC, a festive family feast of fun, Puss In Boots is the present underneath Hilderstone's Christmas Tree.Full of hilarious jokes, romance and great songs, writer John Goodrum has excelled himself and created a Christmas cracker the whole family can enjoy
Directed by Michael Friend and produced by Michael Wheatley-Ward, Puss In Boots has all the trappings of a west end theatre show, at a fraction of the ticket prices. Stephen Martin-Bradley shines like the star at the top of the tree, as Cuddles the magical cat. Stephen is enchanting, witty and engages superbly with the audience. Partnered with John Goodrum, who stars as the Dame, Queen Gloria, Stephen proves himself to be a fabulous actor, comedian and all round entertainer. Stephen was clearly born to be on the stage. John is every bit the traditional Dame, but with all the humour of a modern comedy star. All his jokes were funny, not crude, and the innuendo was subtle without being dense. Emily Holden takes up the principal role of Colin, the late miller's son, as is a real treat to watch. Full of energy, Emily is enthusiastic without being over the top. Alice Chater, a student at the Italia Conti Academy is every bit the perfect Disney princess. She is a polished performer, and her singing voice is stunning . Lisa Payne has her rhyming couplets down to a tee, as the fantastic Fairy Lendahand, and Roger Smythe is the perfect choice for the part of the evil ogre. The cast were complemented by the talents of the Masque Theatre School, who must also be praised for their hard work. This year no pantomime would be complete without an interlude of Gangnam style, but for me there was one scene that particularly stood out- the twelve days of Christmas. It was by far the funniest thing I have seen all year, and is proof that traditional, clean entertainment is still be. If you haven't seen a Michael Friend and Michael Wheatley-Ward pantomime before, do it this year. You will come away feeling like the cat who got the cream. Meow." LAURA ARCHER This is Kent 18-12-2012
Pentameters Theatre, Hampstead
"No introduction is necessary for the audience at Pentameters as to Autumn Music's setting in the mountains of central Italy. They are immediately greeted by the inviting scent of an authentic Italian kitchen within the superb set designed by John Dalton. This bittersweet play was written by Italian-born Bernardo Stella and inspired by his father's struggle in coming to terms with his unexpected widowhood. Eugenio (played by the charming Chris Bearne) is the patriarch of a traditionally large Italian family and determined not to be "left on the shelf". Indeed, as he puts it, he has a few good years in him yet. This is met with great disapproval from those around him,
who seem to care more for their inheritance than his happiness. All, that is, except for his hilarious friend and drinking partner Luigi (Roger Sansom), who gives him the encouragement he needs. Soon Eugenio is courting Isabella (Dot Smith), only to find his family has issues with her family. Particularly her brother Francesco, played by Sansom again but in even better form. Shots of grappa and fisticuffs follow to great comic effect. Credit is due to the accompanying cast members: Alberto Clack in several character roles; Linda Bardell as another, albeit short-lived, suitor for Eugenio; and Zeynab Sandi, the youngest of the cast, playing his headstrong daughter Roberta. This production marks the 50th anniversary of the writer's restaurant La Gaffe in Hampstead, so where better to present it than Pentameters - itself an integral part of the community for over 30 years. Directed by Michael Friend, Autumn Music is a wonderful and heart-warming comedy about getting old and those second chances in life." CAVELLE LEIGH Camden New Journal.25 October, 2012
"69 And Still Going Strong" by Saul Reichlin for remotegoat on 27/10/12
Bernardo Stella, one of Hampstead's treasures, now retired from his Hampstead institution, the La Gaffe restaurant, has returned this charming piece of theatre and his family history to the menu of offerings on the fringe. And where better than at that other institution, Leonie Scott-Matthews' enduring, intimate and much loved Pentameters theatre, and with her at the helm. The young bear, Bernardo, remembers his father's itchings at the terrible old age of 69, for a life again, 18 months after becoming widowed. The shock horror element (to his family and friends) of his lusting after a lady from the next village, and the hostility of that village and the lady's family are redolent of the public face of morality of the age, fuelled by tradition and religious rules, but flouted when no-one was looking. Wittily written, with Stella's infallible ear
for the funny, but sometimes awkward truth, director Michael Friend brings his impressive skills to this rich platter of ingredients, providing a repast of highly enjoyable domestic comedy. The play zips along with never a dull moment, and the richly appointed set is beautifully designed and painted by John Dalton. The main thrust of the story is excellently narrated/performed by the impressively versatile Chris Bearne as Eugenio (bear senior) taking the audience into his confidence and putting them at their ease, while his quandary grows by the day, one might say. The wealth of experience by the cast enabled some amusing doubling of characters and characterisations by Albert Clack and Roger Sansom, but also the simple honesty of all the women in this household. Dot Smith and Linda Bardell showed these redoubtable ladies in true 'period' character, and Zeynep Sandi, as the loving but possessive daughter, Roberta, was movingly loyal in her ambivalence to her father's dalliance. All that was missing from the story was the observant young bear himself, but in his place the audience was invited to share the delicious Penne at interval, with the enticing smells of its cooking just the thing for stirring up an Italian flavour for the evening.
THE PRIMROSE PATH
"This adaptation shows that comedy of manners from 120 years ago can still draw laughs today ... has the audience in stitches as the cast bring out Feydeau's ability to turn the serious into the comic." EMILY WRIGHT Camden New Journal 26th January 2012
" 'Fanny's First Play' gave Shaw the longest theatrical run of his career, in 1911. It resembles 'Pygmalion', in the strength of its female lead and its culture-clash comedy and chimes with current discussions about the origins of social unrest. Shaw used caricature to ridicule what he called the 'dead-as-mutton' English middle class of the time. It's particularly true of thin-lipped Mrs Knox, played with restraint by Lesley-Anne Webb. Albert Clack is memorable as the well-upholstered patriarch Knox, reduced to gibbering idiocy at the idea of losing trade. Beverley Baxter is a delightfully placatory Mrs Gilbey and Graham Dron is funny as 'mollycoddle' son Bobby, newly aware of life's possibilities. Jonas Cemm is a perfectly composed Juggins, the butler-with-a-secret. Fiona McGregor delivers a tour-de-force performance, doubling as the eponymous high-born playwright and the Cockney who captures Bobby's heart. I'd advise all Shavians, and anyone else who likes a good play, to hurry to this charming theatre, attached to the friendly Horseshoe pub in Hampstead." Sheila Cornelius Remotegoat 1 - 9 - 11
GASLIGHTThis play has already received thorough coverage and fulsome praise on its out-of-town run, wholly deserved. Do read the notices. I just wanted to add that "Gaslight" really does merit four stars and a jaunt to Hampstead. Never dismiss a show as "taken out of the closet and dusted off", "this old workhorse" or "showing its age". There's a certain theatrical experience that is timeless. Get into the space, feel the vibes, hate him, melt for her. Telly doesn't do it, nor do the pictures, not in the same way. Call it the "look behind you!" factor. "Gaslight" offers it in huge measure, certainly with this cast in this venue. Design : the Pentameters space is cunningly assimilated into the gloomy upstairs lodgings of the Manninghams - Note : not the other way around. And the technical demands of the play are admirably met. How the space contrived to reek of burning coke even as we came in, I've no idea. You've no choice but to enter this world , it's not a nice one, but there's no leaving until there's a resolution. This is not high melodrama - the play dates from the 1930s, after all - nor a whodunnit (who's doing what to whom becames rapidly apparent). It's formulaic, I suppose, and there are contrivances of plot that would be far too much of a stretch, were it not that the immediacy of the psychological drama going on grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go. Gripping, in short ... CHRIS BEARNE Remotegoat 27/9/2010
"Michael Friend has revived an effective drama that entertains us with serious and human issues. His talented group gave us strong portrayals. Tim Hilbourne's Cokane was fussy and hectoring to Ben de Halpert's baffled and troubled Dr Trench. Emily Holden was spoilt, sensual and intelligent as Blanche. Her scenes with her maid (a feisty Joanna Forest), rounded out dark sides of her character and gave us a sidelight on the fears of the mistress - servant relationship. Chris Bearne was a formidable and assured Sartorius, though like all of us in thrall to his daughter. J.T. Eaton's Lickcheese made a superb transition from pleading rent-collector to self-made property developer." Noel Ensoll. Stage Corner
YOU NEVER CAN TELL
"Little gem of a show" Jonathan Evans Remotegoat 08/07/10
"A delightful play, delightfully played." Aline Waites The Ham and High 08/07/10
"Remarkably only two performers, Amanda Sterkenburg and Luke Bennett, played all four characters. It must have been exhausting but they made it look easy in a superbly paced and nicely balanced production by Michael Friend."
Helen Waddington Thanet Gazette 28/6/10
ARMS AND THE MAN
"...Michael Friend has cast brilliantly. Emma Carroll plays Raina with a mixture of hauteur and girlish naughtiness and Bluntschli is played by the very attractive James Harwood who impresses with his air of world weariness and his cynical intelligence. Lane Paul Stewart is a good contrast as the mustachioed braggart, Sergius. The eccentric parents are well portrayed by Dot Smith and Nick Fawcett. Fawcett in particular gives a memorable picture of the blustering, confused military man and Dot Smith has the right blend of charming snobbishness. One of the most important roles in the play is that of Louka- Raina's acerbic and ambitious maid, who is set to marry a millionaire if she can find one. She is pursued, but without much hope by the lumpish servant Nicola played by Stuart Slavicky. This is a well rounded production with good period costumes by Lindsay Michael Hill and shabby genteel set by John Dalton. It is a really wonderful play - showing much of Shaw's genius and wit very charming, very funny and very well done." Aline Waites Remotegoat 19/2/10
"The production by Michael Friend is perfectly cast ... An evening of extreme pleasure" Aline Waites The Hampstead and Highgate Express 23/2/10
"Michael Friends production is a delight. Lane Paul Stewart makes the less than heroic Sergius a figure young people today could identify with in his relentless analysis of his failings. Emily Holden is a seductive Louka, while Dot Smith and Nick Fawcett as Rainas parents bring a touch of humour to their roles". Emma Klein Camden New Journal 4/2/10
MRS WARREN'S PROFESSION
"This was a fine and wonderful production of the classic Shaw play Mrs Warrens Profession. Full of great farce and untold secrets - an excellent cast kept us enthralled throughout this masterpiece. Special praise goes to EMILY HOLDEN as the put upon daughter Vivie who knows nothing of her Mothers profession but has had her suspicions since early childhood. A special bond between Father and son (Raymond Daniel-Davies and Max Davies) proved the highlight of the night with a very credible old tart but rich tart performance from (Dot Smith) as the whoring mother... Keith Myers a young Orson Wells lookie - likie gave a controlled and beautifully underplayed Sir George Croft and the rest of the cast were faultless throughout. A very warm welcome from our box office lady come producer Leonie Scott- Mathews who put us all at ease and warmed us up ready for some truly fine spoken dialogue and manners to boot. A simple yet effective set from David Myerscough-Jones and stunning costumes from Lindsay Hall. All in all a worthy and well executed production: well worth seeing." Philip Herbert remotegoat 27-5-2009
"... The two female leads are particularly strong in this excellent production with Emily Holden outstanding as the daughter. Dot Smith is convincing as a self-made woman, refusing to be ashamed of who she is; her quiet dignity is moving ... In Ms Holden there is a talented young actress who could grace any stage in the land." Camden New Journal 21-5-2009
"...(Emily) Holden is a powerful actress who manages to convey the somewhat heartless character without any loss of sympathy. Dot Smith plays the lower class Kitty Warren as a woman who is proud of her lowly roots, the way she has fought to survive and the expensive education she has been able to afford for her daughter. The scene between them as she explains to her daughter why she entered this profession is deeply moving and would give the play a happy ending were it not for further revelations in Act two. ... Definately worth seeing." Aline Waites for Watsonstage.com 14-5-2009
2008 has included :
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Caught by the Tail by Georges Feydeau
Review of Caught By The Tail "Hilarious ooh la la la!" by aline waites for remotegoat on 13/04/08
CAUGHT BY THE TAIL at Pentameters Theatre Hampstead until 20/04/08
"Farce is extraordinary things happening to ordinary people" and what is impressive about this production is that the characters are totally honest and never play for laughs. As Fernand, Matt Hebden is handsome and well cast, convincingly romancing both ladies and becoming more and more distraught, as the deception begins to catch up with him. Both the objects of his affection are very attractive and well contrasted. The fiery and passionate Lucette is played by brunette, Emily Holden and the sweet and innocent Vivienne who secretly longs to marry a roue with a murky past is blonde Fiona McGregor.
Lesley-Anne Webb plays a Scottish maid who cannot understand the language, so everything has to be repeated to her in a strong Glaswegian accent. Raymond Daniel-Davies is dominant as the crazy foreigner General Irrigua. The unfortunate Fontanet who cannot understand why everyone smells a bad odour when he is around is Nicholas Evans and the pathetic scapegoat Bouzin who takes the rap for every else's misfortunes is played by J.T.Eaton.
The characters are without exception well played, very funny and well directed by Michael Friend, who also produces.
The 2007 SEASON included:
SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER by Oliver Goldsmith
MRS WARREN'S PROFESSION by Bernard Shaw
MARGATE REPERTORY SEASONS
WE'RE STRANGERS HERE
"Michael Friend skilfully directs (Ayckbourn's) black comedy Game Plan...There were many times when the cast had to pause their dialogue to allow the laughter to subside. This is always a sure sign of a great performance from one and all. I don't always leave a theatre wanting more but I certainly did on this occasion." RICHARD SIROT
WAIT UNTIL DARK
"Michael Friend's direction was slick and polished without being condescending. His cast were a joy to behold as they ensured Coward's script lost none of its original crispness."
"Good provincial theatre is a rarity these days, so when it comes along it should be savoured." Richard Sirot, THANET EXTRA
ARMS AND THE MAN
"Liz Garland gives a top-notch performance as the lovelorn Raina who must chose between the less than loyal Sergius - played by Callum Coates- and her new love, Swiss soldier Bluntschli, portrayed in an equally commanding performance here from James Harwood. Nick Fawcett gives a fine performance too, as the ineffectual Major Petkoff ... Michael Friend's production, which he also directs, is accessible and spledidly staged and acted." THE STAGE
"Michael Friend's production ... boasts an extravagance of talent. This Henry Fielding version of the Moliere classic is a joyous hoot which rolls along at an engaging pace throughout. Terence Denville plays the tight-fisted Lovegold as a bumbling fool with great panache ... Abbey Norman with her down to earth Cockney tones is particularly effective as Lappet the maid ... Callum Coates is a first-rate Frederick ... With so many deceits and subterfuges, it is sometimes confusing as to who wants to marry who and why. But that is all part of the fun of this well-presented classy little romp." THE STAGE
"Rich wit of stylish gem... Fielding displays much of Moliere's deftness and elegance in his own style and is beautifully captured in Michael Friend's stylish, well paced production ... a real sense of ensemble playing, and the fluency, polish and skilfully moderated comedy was a pleasure, exposing the enduring quality of good writing and the value of reviving the classics." SOMERSET COUNTY GAZETTE
"With this production Friend has not so much revived Pygmalion, he has restored it." TIMES EDUCATIONAL SUPPLEMENT
" the denouement is all the more effective for the exemplary pacing of Michael Friend's production.. The same actors will go Wilde from Thursday to Saturday, when staging another classic comedy of English social manners, The Importance of Being Earnest. On the evidence of Pygmalion, it should be another night of champagne summer entertainment." YORK EVENING PRESS
"Intelligent, thought provoking, and very funny ...Particularly impressive was Roger Ringrose as revolutionary,John Tanner, who loses sight of his emotions whilst putting the world to rights. All the cast were fine, including Elizabeth Jasicki as the manipulating Ann Whitefield, Stephen Israel as the poetic brigand Mendoza, and Ciáran Corsar as the omniscient - and whistling - chauffer Henry Straker. And director Michael Friend has helmed the production with a steady hand". EASTBOURNE HERALD
"A stylish adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's epic masterpiece Man and Superman ... Littered with dry, witty, one-liners, many parts of the play, penned in 1900, will ring true with today's audiences and made the play a pleasure to watch ... Tanner, delightfully played by Roger Ringrose ... Impressive performances were put in by all the cast, including Andrew Wheaton as prudish Ramsden, Elizabeth Jasicki as mischievous Ann, Genevieve Swallow as strong Violet, and Simon Jarrett as inoffensive Octavius." WORTHING HERALD