FriendsFest – recreating the magic of TV in Shoreditch

12036590_10207544004548654_4922536199449509953_nWho doesn’t love Friends? Its appeal has lasted long after its final episode aired 11 years ago thanks to endless TV repeats – it will indeed be there for you.

To continue the legacy of this wonderful and hilarious show, Comedy Central held a pop-up event in a Shoreditch warehouse for five days in September and I was one of the lucky ones who managed to get tickets before they sold out in just 13 minutes.

Joining on the back of the queue in Brick Lane that Saturday afternoon, I was worried that it would either take absolutely forever to get in, or that they’d get everyone in but it would be totally crammed. Happily, the queue moved quickly and once inside it didn’t feel too cramped, instead with just enough areas for people to spread out comfortably around different sets and exhibits.

11181819_10207543999188520_1681692532857975375_nInside, visitors were greeted with a Comedy Central red carpet photo opportunity and a video message from James Michael Tyler, best known after all these years as Gunther.

Joey and Chandler’s living room came first, with the iconic La-Z-Boy chairs available for kicking back, plus the cabinet in which Joey once got stuck, and table football.

Everything was a lovingly-sourced replica of items from the show except the white dog statue, the Central Perk sofa – one of seven used throughout the show – and other props housed in cabinets such as Rachel’s 18 page letter to Ross, Ross’ Science Boy comic and Chandler and Monica’s wedding vows.

12011229_10207544000508553_7569889001657707035_nMoving on, an outside space set up a photo opportunity with a fountain and umbrellas as in the opening titles . How could you not?

Back inside, there it was – THE sofa. All of the main cast’s bottoms have touched this sofa. It was an exciting moment. It was also opposite a bar, obviously named Central Perk, with one free drink plus free snacks, which I was pretty impressed with.

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11143293_10207544008628756_6915129776953313591_nTucked away in a corner was a salon for the ladies to get their hair blow dried in any of Rachel’s styles – a nice idea that people seemed to be taking advantage of. And by the exit was a photobooth with outfits such as wedding dresses and over-the-head turkeys to get some snaps plus a set up with Phoebe’s guitar.

But in between these two attractions, was the one bit you had to queue further for – five minutes in Monica’s beloved apartment. It was run well and five minutes, although it doesn’t sound like a lot, was actually plenty to explore and get some once-in-a-lifetime photos.

The attention to detail was great – the fridge was stocked with Rachel’s beef trifle, Ross’ anger-inducing sandwich and Joey’s beloved meatball sub, for example. Visitors endlessly replicated the Thanksgiving head-through-door shot, lounged on the sofas, chatted in the kitchen, moped like Rachel by the large window, then peered through it searching for Ugly Naked Guy.

This whole experience, which took around an hour and a half, was a unique way to spend a Saturday afternoon and certainly worth £5. I’m impressed Comedy Central didn’t try to milk visitors more than that – even the merchandise stand there was unusually subtle. Could it have BEEN any more awesome?

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