FriendsFestive review: Recreate your favourite Friends moments on the show’s sets
You may have noticed in the media in recent months that 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the TV show Friends. Although I was an original fan back in the 1990s, a whole new younger audience have come to love the show thanks to Netflix and Comedy Central. This Christmas season, the sell-out FriendsFest is back in London with a festive twist. Hosted by ComedyCentral UK, FriendsFestive gives fans of the show a chance to hang out on the sets, see authentic props and costumers from the show, and pose for photos and videos as you recreate memorable scenes.
I had previously visited the first FriendsFest back in 2015 and was fortunate enough to meet actor James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther. The original FriendsFest was a much smaller affair with only one proper set and I had seen through friends’ social media photos that subsequent Friendsfests had got bigger and better. FriendsFestive differs from the others because it offers a twist on the theme with many references from Thanksgiving and Christmas episodes, as well as a lot more interactive spaces and photo opportunities.
When booking, you are given a timeslot for a set tour, before being given free time at the end to explore the photo areas, shop, and food and drink spaces. As we waited for our tour to begin, we were given time in a sort of Friends mini museum, full of authentic costumes and props from the show. You’ll recognise Rachel’s horrific pink bridesmaid dress for Barry and Mindy’s wedding; Monica’s red prom dress; the turkey ‘headpiece’; Ross’s letter comparing Rachel and Julie; Chandler’s gold ‘bracelet buddy’ from Joey; Ursula’s porn video; amongst many others.
The guided tour started in Monica and Rachel’s apartment living-kitchen area, which had been suitably decked out for Christmas. The kitchen had familiar items fans from the show would recognise such as Phoebe’s skull full of liquorice, Rachel’s disastrous trifle-mince pie hybrid and a cardboard box full of Monica’s broken posh plates. Our group were given opportunity to explore the set and pose for photographs, before clearing the room so an empty photo could be taken. Helpfully, this was factored in for every room so you could get some decent shots without random people ruining your shot. Next, we progressed to the hallway, complete with candy basket hanging on Monica’s door. Moving on to Chandler and Joey’s apartment, it had cute touches like Hugsie the penguin on the sofa, and the drum kit Phoebe bought Joey to try and force Rachel to move out. Finally, it was the Central Perk set, with the iconic orange sofa, the neon service sign and Phoebe’s guitar on stage.
Following the tour, we were free to explore the various food and drink areas, as well as photo stations. You can dress in 80s prom gear for a flashback photo in a giant yellow picture frame, become the floating heads in Monica’s door or ring Phoebe’s bell outside the department store. If you want to feel like a child again – or perhaps rather awkward – you can visit the Christmas armadillo in his grotto. One of my favourite photo areas was making your own opening credits gif on the orange sofa, which was a hilarious sequence for my friend and I running round changing poses. Meanwhile, for those feeling extra confident, you could attempt Monica and Ross’ “The Routine” they performed for New Year’s Rockin’ Eve on a platform.
Aside from the tour and photo areas, there are also two bars serving soft drinks and alcohol, a big screen showing Friends episodes, a Friends-themed shop and three street food stalls, selling Joey-sized pizza and ‘Moist Maker’ sandwiches just like Ross got very angry over.
Overall, it was a fun couple of hours and certainly can get you in the festive mood. Plenty of staff are on hand to take photos, but you may struggle to get a space to yourself in the main sets as the set tour groups are quite big.
- FriendsFestive runs from 28 November – 21 December 2019. Open 11am-10pm. Tickets: £32 (includes a glass of mulled wine or non-alcoholic drink). The Old Truman Brewery, 83 Brick Lane, Spitalfields, E1 6QR. Nearest stations: Shoreditch High Street, Liverpool Street or Aldgate East. For more information, visit the FriendsFestive website.