Who doesn’t like Friends? (this is a rhetorical question, but if you actually don’t then there’s probably no point reading on). Watching Friends is like putting on your comfiest clothes – you know what to expect and can just sink into it’s warm familiarity. Yes you know what’s coming, and yes you know the jokes, but could you BE any more content? (Chandler-ism!)
So many Friends sayings have worked their way into every day vocabulary (certainly mine!) and the fact that the show is on Comedy Central pretty much all the time means you’re only ever a flick of the channel away from those 6 people who you’ve never met, but just know you’d get on with brilliantly in real life (with the exception of Ross, obvs).
When Comedy Central announced “Friends-fest” was going on tour this year (following it’s initial launch in London in 2016) I was determined to go. The closest location to us was Cardiff (close being a figurative term here, as it’s still a 100+ mile drive) but I figured we could make a day of it and so I got tickets as part of the husband’s birthday present.
The website said that a visit to the site should take around 2.5 hours, including the set tour which you had to book a timeslot for.
The website had huge delusions of grandeur in terms of how you could spend the 2 hours that weren’t the set tour. We were done in 30 minutes, and that included a pit stop for a “MY SANDWICH” (remember the Ross episode?) which cost an eye watering £6.50 each.
Let me explain. The site was in a fenced off area of Bute Park, in Cardiff city centre. It wasn’t very big. It comprised of a few different areas / set recreations where you could queue to get your photograph taken, a big screen with lots of deckchairs where you could sit and watch back to back episodes of Friends, a shop, a bar and the set tour area.
There was a covered area where you could queue to recreate the opening sequence, complete with multi coloured umbrellas and the queue was probably 15 minutes long.
The husband hates getting his pic taken and I’d look a bit of a wally sitting there on my own, so there was little point in that.
There was the Central Perk recreation in a separate tent, which was quite good. There are spots to pose outside the café, behind Gunther’s counter, on the famous sofa, and on Phoebe’s stool in the window with a guitar and there were staff dotted around to take photos on camera phones, which was good, but it was hard to get a good pic because there were lots and lots of people milling around so it felt a bit conveyor belt-ish.
There was a very poor almost cardboard cut out recreation of the front of the wedding chapel where Ross and Rachel got married, a very tenuous Lincoln High graduation ceremony background and some cheesy props for people to use (this area felt like they were desperately trying to add some value to the whole experience but failing miserably) and a NY taxi and an NYPD car.
Food and drinks wise there was Monica’s Moonshine diner (a food van with a really small America diner seating area in an open fronted tent), a food van that sold the afore mentioned sandwich…
…plus nachos and pulled pork sandwiches, snacks in the café attached to Central Perk and a small bar overlooking the big screen.
It all felt very thrown together and amateur.
The best bit was the set tour, which as I mentioned was a booked time slot. We were ushered into a pre-set area which had some original costumes and props from across the show – this was pretty interesting and I think could have been expanded on to give more value for money.
We were then directed round to the two main apartments featured in the show which were connected by the corridor as you see it on TV. This was quite surreal to look at, because it was like seeing the contents of your TV with your own eyes!
We were in Joey and Chandler’s apartment first.
Then the hallway.
Then Monica’s apartment.
We were encouraged to get on set, sit on chairs and take photos, but there were so many people that again it felt cramped and it was difficult to get around everything without being in someone’s way. The good thing was that at the end of each set, the chaperone for our group ordered everyone off, so we were able to get some clear shots.
And then that was it! A 2.5 hour drive each way and £40 worth of petrol for a very sub standard hour. Oh, and did I mention the tickets cost £22.50 each????
Most of the experience panders to today’s selfie and “look, I was there” culture and felt very much like ticking a box for a photograph at every location rather than any in depth, behind the scenes, this is worth the money, I’ve found something new about one of my favourite shows content.
In case you’re wondering, and I haven’t made it clear, I wouldn’t recommend it. If tickets were a tenner and it came to your local town then maybe worth a look. But £22.50 is a hugely overpriced rip off and left me with a bitter taste (and it wasn’t coffee from Central Perk).
To quote my friend Ellen “When no-one told you Friends-fest was going to be this way” clap clap clap clap…
Are you a Friends fan? Do you have a favourite? Let me know!
Thanks, as always, for reading. x