Ross and Rachel is a shockingly dark, visceral and bleak exploration of what might have happened to TV's favourite couple a few years down the line. To put it briefly - nothing good.
We catch up with Ross and Rachel in their 40s. Ross is (still) an insufferably smug university lecturer, and Rachel is (still) an improbably successful fashion buyer contemplating an affair. She is thinking of leaving him, but discovers he is ill and so doesn't feel she can.
The roles of Ross and Rachel are both performed with commitment and skill by Molly Vevers. This mostly works brilliantly, adding balance and interest to what could have been a fairly ordinary tale of the bitter end of a marriage. There were moments when I would have liked clearer differentiation between the characters, as at times it was slightly confusing who was talking.
The set and staging another highlight of the show. In a dark reimagining of the title sequence of friends, the action largely takes place in a shallow pool of water, surrounded by candles and overhung with fairy lights. The lighting design was beautiful but unobtrusive, simple warm and cold lighting states fading in and out to reflect the mental states of the characters.
No previous knowledge of Friends was necessary to understand the show - this could have been any struggling couple in their 40s. However, the references do add very welcome moments of comic relief it would be a shame to lose, as well as lending a richness to the characters through the assumed back story.
Overall, this was a perfect example of a show I thought was excellent artistically but didn't enjoy. It is so raw, so immediate and so unrelenting, so well acted, so visually stunning, so discomfiting. It could have done with a little more light among the shade. As it stands it is a skillfully crafted but almost unbearably bleak rebuttal to the notion of happily ever after.