Joey, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, Ross and Rachel all put their keys down on the table of their New York apartment. It’s 2004 and The Last One. The audience is on their feet, the actors are teary-eyed, and after 236 episodes, Friends is over. What does happen next?
Ross & Rachel. Ross. & Rachel. RossnRachel. Their names now come together from overuse. They send one email to Ross and address it to Ross & Rachel. She laments that hers always comes second, but it’s always been Ross & Rachel – despite not having the smoothest ride when it comes to relationships (guys, they were on a break). But their tear-jerking reconciliation in The Last One is enough to suggest that they go off to live happily ever after.
Just as Friends is filled with all the hiccups of modern living, Ross & Rachel is too. And here their hiccup is cancer. James Fritz’s play is one long monologue performed by Molly Vevers: she plays Ross, Rachel, and everyone else in between. And she’s absolutely mastered this. All it takes is a slight turn of the head or change of eye contact to flick between characters. From the opening scene, which is structured as a duologue between our two protagonists, we know that we’re in for something special.
Fritz appears to perfectly predict how Ross and Rachel’s lives would have panned out. Naturally, Ross remains besotted, still marvelling that “she belongs to him”. Rachel, on the other hand, suffocates under this love.
It is as intimate as a show can be without stepping into the realms of audience participation. The Assembly’s tiny shipping container theatre space is absolutely packed, the lighting is soft and intimate and Vevers clutches a mug of tea as she performs. We feel as though we’re in her living room and it feels beautifully personal, which suits how personal the subject matter is. Friends works so well because we feel so close to all the characters, and Fritz plays off this with Ross & Rachel.
The Friends references are there, but they’re subtly woven into the seams. Don’t be put off if you’ve never seen a single episode of Friends or even heard of it. A) Where have you been for 20 years? b) Go and watch it now and c) Ross & Rachel is still for you.
Ross & Rachel is playing at Assembly George Square (Venue 8) until August 31 as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For more information, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.