Tuesday, 22 October 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: Friendsical - The Nuffield Southampton Theatres, Southampton.


Based on the iconic TV show, ‘Friends’, this evening’s performance of Friendsical at the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton, was a musical made up of the six main characters, Ross, Rachel, Monica, Joey, Chandler and Phoebe. There were also two chorus characters playing various roles including, Gunther, dinosaurs, and two crew assistants. The story loosely followed the plot of the TV series, homing in on all the most iconic moments and avoiding a strict timeline. The concept of the show was that it was still a TV series, and still filming scenes with two extras playing ‘makeup’ and ‘set’, and any character could break out of the shot into the fourth wall at any point. This was an interesting idea and enhanced the comedic aspects of the show, allowing insight into each characters feelings at each point in the show and hinting at what’s to come.

Overall, the characterisation was very good, particularly the characters Chandler and Ross who each seemed to get every intonation and movement just right. The other characters were effective. However, at times there was slight over characterisation which became more annoying than funny, particularly with Monica and Phoebe’s characters. Of course, special guests Gunther and Janice were hilarious and well executed by both actors. Janice was played also by Phoebe who was multi-rolling. This was very clever and her over-characterisation worked better for Janice as we all know she is very over-the-top and irritating deliberately.

The set was completely adaptable, moving each scene by the stagehands to flit between Monica’s apartment, Joey’s apartment, and the Central Perk Café. This reminded the audience of the concept, a moving set TV show, and allowed a multi-locational show. This was shown effectively when Monica called for a new sofa from backstage because Rachel had soaked her wet hair all over it. Each location mirrored that in the TV show with Monica’s attention to detail decoration, Joey and Chandler’s comfy chairs, and the staple sofa which occupies most gossip in Gunther’s café.

The lighting was minimalistic, mostly creating an internal room through warm straw gels. However, when characters broke out of the scene a harsher white or blue wash was used to detach the character from the scene going on behind them. Many different lights were used in the main theme songs to create a lively and exciting number. The songs, written for the musical, on the whole, were witty and well executed (and very catchy).

Despite the overall success, if you have not watched the TV series then this show would have lost most of its comedic value and become very confusing. Hence, this narrows their target audience to only true fans of the series which, despite being widely watched, is limiting. Particularly as, at times, I felt I would probably rather have been sat at home watching the actual series from my bed on Netflix. This is a shame but unsurprising, the TV show was the biggest hit of the '90s and couldn’t really be matched.

On the whole, it was still a good and funny piece of theatre with an interesting concept which I hadn’t seen before. But, it was a massive challenge to take on and I feel it was not really as successful as many big fans, like myself, were hoping for. Regardless, I still had a great evening and lots of fun…

Reviewer - Grace McNicholas
on - 21/10/19

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