Writer: Brendan Murphy
Director: Hamish McDougall
It is astonishing to think that the last episode of the iconic series F.R.I.E.N.D.S aired on our screens a whole 17 years ago. With the constant re-runs on various channels and streaming platforms, the series continues to amass new fans and provide comfort and joy to the original ones. F.R.I.E.N.D.S fans are deeply invested in the trials and tribulations of the core group of Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, Chandler, Monica and Joey which span almost two decades.
However, FRIEND (The One With Gunther) is not about them – it is about Gunther, the barista who serves the gang their coffees in Central Perk in 185 of 236 episodes. Brendan Murphy, writes and stars in this 70-minute-long one man show. Murphy is a skilled comedy actor, guiding the audience through the summary of ten seasons of the sitcom. He primarily plays Gunther, but also seamlessly slips into cameos of an array of other characters. Most notable is his hilarious depiction of Chandler, where he fully embodies his gestures and mannerisms to great comedic effect.
Seeing a real life audience (the streamed version was filmed at Wilton’s Music Hall in June), adds to the feeling of nostalgia, taking the viewer back to the pre-2020 era when live audiences were the norm. Murphy frequently mentions having been away from the stage due to the pandemic and his joy of being back to performing in front of and engaging and interacting with a live audience is evident. The set is a vision of familiarity, paying homage to some of the key visuals from the series itself; from the neon F.R.I.E.N.D (singular) sign, to the colourful umbrellas from the opening credits and the iconic coffee shop couch.
Although not claiming to be a musical, the show is peppered with some musical interludes including humorous parodies of songs from Rent and Eminem. A catchy rendition of Acceptable In The 90s, acknowledges how elements of the series such as body shaming and lack of diversity are problematic. The cultural and political climate has undoubtedly evolved over the years since the show has ended.
The premise of the show revolves around the idea of what happened to the core ‘fun gang’ of characters once the show ended. The plot is a slightly loose and disjointed in parts and relies heavily on the audience having an in-depth knowledge of every season, minor character and in jokes from the series. With this being said, this is not a show for those unfamiliar with F.R.I.E.N.D.S but avid fans of the original series will be entertained and delighted. As Murphy’s Gunther says ‘there is no shame in being the supporting character’ and with a performance as entertaining as this one, the audience will surely agree.
Available here between until 25 July 2021