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Friends star on West End stage
Matthew Perry's West End debut play has been described as "Friend for grown-ups" and swapping the conventions of TV sitcom for comedy drama with an edge, it features adult themes and frequent use of the F word.
It's hard to avoid some comparisons with Friends, as we witness the wise-cracking Chandler morph into Jack, and the nice-but-dim Joseph (Lloyd Owen) taking the place of Matt le Blanc's character Joey. They meet up with two women in a bar: glamorous, high class prostitute Stephanie, (Jennifer Mudge) and her neurotic friend Stevie, (Christina Cole) a bit of a Bridget Jones type.
Having survived years of alcoholism, admitting that there are three seasons of Friends he barely remembers, Perry has drawn partly on his own experience to create a character who is a loud and embarrassing drunk.
The first half gives Jack plenty of opportunities for jokes, often made at his own expense, so he can do himself down before anyone else does. The second half delves into more serious issues, with fewer laughs, including the show's best line, coming as welcome light relief from the heavier dialogue about life, the universe and the compromises required to sustain a semi-functional relationship.
Perry seems more at home playing the slightly dysfunctional, intelligent, sensitive one, wishing he could be more like Joseph, who enjoys the simple things in life, like chatting about football over a few beers.
When it comes to the more challenging emotional scenes, Perry sometimes resorts to shouting, rather than going for a more controlled, nuanced delivery, but perhaps this will change over the course of the show's run.
The sets divide mostly between bar room and bedroom, with one scene where Jack appears in his underpants (in bed, not in the bar, in case you're wondering, although the other way round might have been funnier.)
Daring to bare will probably please the Friends fans, but it takes greater courage to reveal your weaknesses in public, and for doing that, as both writer and performer, Perry deserves due recognition.