It definitely hasn't been this couple's day, week or year
James Fritz’s shockingly good monologue is definitely not about Ross and Rachel from ‘Friends’. Definitely, definitely not. Definitely not as far as anybody’s lawyers are concerned, anyway. It’s a tale about relationships and their dark side, a horror story about losing yourself in somebody else when you don’t want to be lost, and perhaps also a vision of white male privilege taken to its bleakest extreme.
Though it, er, may in fact also derive a considerable sly post-modern frisson from what would appear to be a series of references to a popular ’90s sitcom, which add a welcome note of surreal whimsy to ‘Ross & Rachel’ without overpowering it.
Speaking in her own Scots accent, performer Molly Vevers takes on the role of the monologue’s unnamed male and female narrators, who would seem to have a pretty similar backstory to the fictional TV characters Ross Gellar and Rachel Green. As the story starts, the self-confessedly nerdy man is deliriously happy that he has finally settled down with his long standing on-off partner, a beautiful former prom queen who he was obsessed with for years, and who he now insists upon repeatedly describing as ‘belonging’ to him. But she feels differently: she’s drowning in the relationship, losing her sense of self as people view her purely as half a couple. She is cracking up under the strain of it all: in one of many disturbing sequences, she is playing hostess and asks us ‘coffee?’ again and again and again, a look of panic creeping onto her face as she’s unable to stop, unable to remember what’s left of her beyond her duties.
And then he develops terminal cancer and she doesn’t know what to think – she is sad, but part of her looks forwards to release. He, however, is devastated that her life will continue without him; he turns his mind to doing something really insane about it.
Though Fritz’s script has a streak of mischief a mile wide, Vevers’s paint stripper intense performance and Thomas Martin’s production is not a joke – it’s often incredibly emotionally harrowing, especially her conjuring of a scared, desperate woman who sees no escape from gilded prison society would like her to stay in.
‘Ross & Rachel’ is a clever interrogation of a slippery area of the human psyche that’s often overlooked, underexplored, or simply presented as being A Good Thing. But more than that, it’s a virtuosic piece of writing, playful, post-modern and devastatingly serious, all at once.