As soon as we arrive in the Central Perk styled venue (“all similarities with a fictional 90s TV show are purely coincidental” we’re told as a legal disclaimer), we know the deal. This is full of nostalgia, for a comedy series that’s achieved legendary status. It’s not the only piece to take more than a little inspiration from Friends this Fringe. And it’s a marketers dream, because anything connected to the show will draw crowds, hungry for the tropes and reminiscence.
As we’re arriving, Brendan Murphy is among the audience. Chatting, joking and endearing us to him before he’s even begun. He’s funny, charming and good at building a sense of relaxed but upbeat expectations.
Murphy tells the story of all ten series as seen through the eyes of Gunther. He does visit other characters, but with this character’s journey he can provide more of an outsider’s satire of both plots and personas. There are plenty of good jokes and ample coverage of those dearly beloved tropes. But Friends fans, there’s a problem. The character we meet in no way resembles the one from the TV show.
This doesn’t need to be a perfect impression, however as Gunther is the role on which Friend is based, it would help to see some of his personality, or voice, or mannerisms – anything. Instead we are presented with an unrecognisably ebullient, super high energy guy who neither looks nor sounds remotely like Gunther. His interpretations of the other characters aren’t great either. For example a brief depiction of Emily (a clearly privileged middle class Londoner) as cockney is bizarre and misplaced, it’s also inconsistent as he reverts her to an RP accent later.
Yet Brendan Murphy interplays beautifully with his audience in this partly interactive piece. This may not be the best vehicle for him (and may be construed as borderline sacrilege to the most ardent Friends fans). But it’ll put bums on seats for those looking for mentions of their favourite scenes and catchphrases, a decent bit of parody, funny jokes, along with some light-hearted slightly interactive family friendly fun.
You can see Friend at Pleasance at the EICC from 3rd – 17th August at 13:30. For tickets, please visit www.edfringe.com