Anna Friend is an Author, Theatre Director, Actor and Radio Presenter. She founded Quirky Bird in 2015 and is the Resident Director at The Alma Tavern & Theatre in Bristol. In just over 5 years she has developed Quirky Bird from a one-woman-teacher-director situation to a thriving small business that offers employment and opportunities to arts freelancers and young actors from across the UK.
Her work has gained a reputation for powerful, naturalistic theatre alongside reworking classic texts to inspire new audiences. She has worked extensively with Shakespeare, in particular making these contemporary and accessible for young actors. Her theatre has been hailed as 'theatre full of imagination and creativity'.
As an Author
Anna Friend is Author of the Big Little Hearts Series, published by Scholastic UK. This series has been developed over the past 8 years, each book being written in response to a challenging situation in her life, or the life of a close friend. During the lockdown of 2020, finding herself without theatre work, Anna took the opportunity to work with illustrator Jake Biggin and create each book ready for self-publication in February 2021. However, when the UK entered lockdown once again on January 5th 2021, Jake and Anna took the decision to rush ahead with publication of 'When Can I Go Back to School' as an ebook to help support young children who were once again struggling with this huge change. 10 days later they self-published the Kindle version, 4 days later, the paperback version became available on Amazon.
On Wednesday 3rd February 2021, Anna contacted Leah James, Non-Fiction and Licencing Manager at Scholastic UK, reaching out for advice and help, trying to gain some momentum for the book in the midst of Children's Mental Health Week. To her immense surprise, Leah responded the same day and 2 days later, offered her and Jake a 3 book deal for the Big Little Hearts Series. In one of the "rushiest" deals ever, the book was fast tracked and published only 10 days later;
The other titles in the Series are due for publication later in 2021 and early 2022;
Who Will Love Me When You're Gone? - publication set for November 2021.
This book has been written to support families facing the loss of a parent or grandparent.
Will Mummy Love me Like Before? - publication set for May 2022
This book looks at the coming of a new sibling into the families and the insecurities that might bring.
As a Theatre Director
Anna has been directing theatre since2008. She started to and continues to work with young actors, providing much needed opportunities to produce highly developed, naturalistic character based performances, without bowing down to the over-used label of 'Youth Theatre'. Much of her early work was the adaptation of Shakespeare for young audiences, creating fresh new versions of Hamlet, Macbeth and A Midsummer Nights Dream. In 2011 she took her young company to her first professional venue, The Alma Tavern Theatre in Bristol and has never looked back. Since then she has developed two young actor companies, an independent theatre school and has become the resident director at The Alma, leading in-house company Schoolhouse Productions.
She has worked extensively with play-texts from Dennis Kelly, Polly Stenham, Anya Reiss and Laura Wade, favouring gritty, naturalistic drama that helps her young cast develop their stage craft.
DNA by Dennis Kelly: Her school tour of DNA by Dennis Kelly has been running for four years and continues to provide essential resources for schools and opportunities for young actors;
"We have been lucky enough to see the Quirky Bird performance of DNA both at our centre and in the theatre, each and every time is has been an invaluable experience for both students and staff alike. The actors bring the play to life with passion and commitment, allowing the students to get a real insight into the play in performance which provides a wealth of experience for them to write about in their exams. The talk to director Anna afterwards fills in all the blanks, from character motivation, through rehearsal techniques to technical elements the students were able to fully realise the potential of the play from page to stage. There is no doubt that students grades are improved by watching this brilliant performance. Thanks Quirky Bird!"
Tusk Tusk by Polly Stenham, 2016: this production won 9 awards at the All England Theatre Festival including Best Actor, Best Director and Best Production.
"Tusk Tusk is a play that demands a great deal of its youthful cast, but fortunately Quirky Bird Theatre’s director Anna Friend has been rewarded with excellent performances all round. They most certainly deserve a bigger audience than they had last night. I strongly recommend that you see one of the remaining two performances to find out: April 1st 7.30 and April 2nd2.30. ★★★★☆ Mike Whitton 31st March 2016"
That Face by Polly Stenham, 2017: this production won 7 awards at the All England Theatre Festival including Best Supporting Actor, Best Director and Best Production in the regional rounds.
"Artistic Director, Anna Friend, develops delicate nuances of sensitivity within her young actors, as their unstable world moves into greater turmoil. A remarkable amount of depth is drawn out in their acting, through a carefully considered and highly discerning interpretation of this text. When watching this production, one can’t help but feel drawn into the angst and uncertainty these young people must be experiencing. This is a very sincere production, which tackles the complex themes of this play with a great sense of maturity and professionalism."
Naia Headland, female arts online magazine
Spur of the Moment by Anya Reiss, 2018
Her work at The Alma Tavern & Theatre has seen new fresh interpretations of iconic texts. Including;
Ibsen's A Dolls House by Simon Stephens;
"Resident Director Anna Friend does a fine job of teasing every drop of emotion from her talented cast, each of whom perform with passion and add a touch of humour to the serious undertones of the play, something that has not been obvious when I have seen this work performed previously”
***** 365 BRISTOL
Abigail's Party by Mike Leigh
“Anna Friend’s gloriously intimate and flawlessly cast production for the in-house company, Schoolhouse, is one of the finest renderings of the play I have ever seen, alive to the rich sense of uncomfortable humour but also the vicious power struggles and forced geniality of the guests. A beautifully detailed set – complete with cheese plant, pineapple ice bucket, and lava lamp – perfectly evokes the era and while the staging remains natural and fluid, this is a production unafraid of stillness and silence. There are moments where one is weeping with laughter, only to be undercut by an icy retort or shift in control which unsettles the mood but is never once overplayed.”
***** LE FLANEUR
As an Actor
Anna returned to acting in 2016, when she agreed to take on the female roles in Schoolhouse's inaugural production of 'Two' by Jim Cartwright. Since then she has appeared on stage at the Alma as the iconic Beverly in Abigail's Party, Teresa in Shelagh Stephenson's The Memory of Water and most recently completed a hugely successful run of Shirley Valentine by Willy Russell. She has also appeared as Martha in Quirky Bird's touring version of That Face by Polly Stenham and was described as 'gobsmackingly good' .She will be taking 'I'm Sexy and I Know It', her one woman show exploring sexual identity, what being sexy means and asking 'should I give a *?!*'? to Edinburgh Fringe in August 2021/22.
As a Broadcaster
In November 2020 Anna hosted her debut radio broadcast on BBC Radio Wiltshire, after taking part in the UK Wide search for BBC New Voices. During lockdown 2020 she created two new audio comedy shows, 'My Vegan Vibrator and Others Disturbing Stories' and 'Deborah Alice's Mum' , click below to listen to highlights from her radio show and full episodes from her comedy shows;
BBC Radio Wiltshire Deborah Alice's Mum Ep 1 My Vegan Vibrator Ep 1
Anna Friend Dec 2020
Her brand new podcast, 'Taking on the Change' will be released in April 2021, aimed at changing attitudes and perceptions of women going through the Menopause by sharing experiences and breaking down taboos.
To contact Anna Friend email
To view her Mandy Voices Profile go to https://www.mandy.com/uk/voice-artist/anna-friend-1