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Friendsical review at Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh – ‘completely pointless cash-in’

Thomas Mitchells, Jamie Lee-Morgan, Sarah Goggin, Charlotte Elisabeth Yorke, Jordan Fox and Ally Retberg in Friendsical at Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh. Photo: Dale Wightman Thomas Mitchells, Jamie Lee-Morgan, Sarah Goggin, Charlotte Elisabeth Yorke, Jordan Fox and Ally Retberg in Friendsical at Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh. Photo: Dale Wightman
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It’s really, really difficult to fathom what this is and why. Stopping in Edinburgh on a UK tour, it claims to be a ‘a parody musical about Friends’ but actually it’s just 90 minutes of wigged lookalikes saying stuff that happened in the sitcom.

Writer Miranda Larson has barely given the show a plot, but the (very) basic idea here is that Ross Geller has brought together his five Friends in a musical spectacular to re-enact highlights of Ross and Rachel’s relationship. So the cast are playing the Friends playing actors playing themselves or something. That’s about four layers too many for a show that otherwise has no substance.

As for the ‘musical’ bit, well yes there are moments where the cast of impressionists (quality variable) start singing, but the songs by Barrie Bignold are really forgettable. There’s a bastardised version of the Friends theme, a song about Richard’s Moustache, pastiches of musical theatre songs.

Four of the cast do good impressions of their counterparts, and there’s a pleasant satisfaction in seeing Thomas Mitchells nail the voice and hands-in-pockets posture of Chandler and Ally Retberg do Phoebe. Maybe a little smile at Janice’s appearance. But two of the cast sort of don’t bother.

The trouble is that the show is conflicted about itself: on one level it’s an exaggeration of the Friends characters, drawing humour from pointing out absurdities in them and the plot points out they endured across 136 episodes.

Then a lot of the time it forgets that it’s parody, and instead tries to make actual jokes that may be in the show, as if this were a spec script. And those jokes bomb. So it’s just confusing. Is this affectionate piss-take or just incompetent reconstruction?

Also, there’s the appalling sound mix, and the painful wheeling of sets whose clumsiness they vaguely attempt to pass off as part of the shoddy in-narrative production that Ross is putting on.

If it’s a musical, it needs proper songs, not pop pastiches whose lyrics consist of quotes from the show. If it’s parody, it needs to poke fun and have a point, rather than just imitating and saying stuff that happened. And if it’s this bad, it needs to not be £17.50 and 90 minutes.

Some good impressions, and a door painted the right shade of purple, are not enough.

There’s no faulting the ambition of the show, planting itself in a 650-seat auditorium and knowing it will sell it out. Shame the ambition doesn’t extend to the material.

It’s sort of extraordinary how devoid of, well, anything it is: structure, content, humour, point. With Friends like this, who needs enemies?

Jekyll and Hyde review at Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh – ‘irrepressibly good-natured romp’

 

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Verdict
Completely pointless cash-in on a world-famous brand that struggles to be either a musical or a parody
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