Spoiler alert, when Ross and Rachel finally got together in Friends, there was much celebration from fans of the iconic TV show. After all, we'd been waiting ten years for this. Once the show was over, we assumed that that was their happy ending. They were meant for each other. But what happens when that happy ending doesn't come? James Fritz' Ross & Rachel picks up on this story ten years later and reveals that what we may have wanted back then could easily be what is slowly killing us now.
Fritz's play is intended to be performed by one actor in both roles. The transitions between characters occur instantly throughout and sometimes before a sentence has even been finished. This can make for a challenging narrative to follow, but the idea of losing one's self by being in a relationship is made abundantly clear. While this is told through the characters of Friends, it is still accessible for those who don't know the TV show as references to the show will appeal to fans but are vague enough that non-Friends fan will still be able to understand. Ross & Rachel isn't about the Friends, it's about two people who thought they were meant to be together.
Jessica Stanley gives a committed performance with a demanding script that calls for sudden emotional and tonal changes, however the one thing that really sticks out during this production is that Stanley is clearly not a 40-something year old like the two characters are presented. Perhaps having an older actor taking on these roles might have had a stronger impact with the narrative and been able to give a more authentic response to the characters' motivations.
The set design is minimal but incredibly effective in this instance. A small, square-shaped white flooring is the performance space given to Stanley. She is boxed in. Trapped inside it with the audience watching her from every side. She is under scrutiny. Its whiteness dramatically stands out among the darkness of the rest of the venue. She is small and vulnerable and could easily be enveloped by the darkness at any moment. Faran Martin's direction keeps her moving and utilising the space well, showing the emotional turmoil of the characters.
Ross & Rachel requires a lot from its audience but it is a rewarding story that puts you into the very different mind frames of two individuals sharing the same experience. If anything, it leaves you questioning just how well you know the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.
Click here for my interview with Jessica Stanley and producer James Cerche.
Venue: Theatre Works, 14 Acland St, St Kilda.
Season: Until 22 September | 7:00pm
Length: 60 minutes
Tickets: $25 Full | $22 Conc
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival