There’s is no denying the nation and world’s love for ABBA – with their fanbase only increasing over time, their music has proven to be timeless.
This popularity has lead to chart-topping films, digital concerts and this brilliant new comedy by Ian Hallard – The Way Old Friends Do bringing the joy of ABBA to York Theatre Royal.
As labelled perfectly in the story, I too am a ‘thespian lesbian’ and what better musical to watch during Pride month than a story following a group of individuals, the majority of them queer, putting on a drag ABBA tribute act.
If that doesn’t have you reaching for a ticket, I don’t know what will!
The Way Old Friends Do is at York Theatre Royal from Tuesday 6 to Saturday 10 June.
The story follows old school friends Edward (James Bradshaw) and Peter (Ian Hallard) as they reunite and embark on a new adventure, swapping their dress shirts for lycra and trainers for platform boots.
They rally up a unique band of their own and we get to watch them form, storm and transform as the story, including the unexpected twists and turns, come their way. Look at the Beatles, Spandau Ballet even Take That – it’s not easy keeping a band together, there are bound to be tensions and disagreements along the way.
I will say however, if you are booking to watch the band actually perform, you will be in for a wait, maybe for a little too long. Gimme Gimme Gimme more drag!
The script glows with one liners and ingeniously written characters. Many lines will make you gasp then laugh in light relief as it provides comedic commentary on every topic possible; race, gender, sexuality, class and politics.
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Hallard’s work is brought to life by husband and director Mark Gatiss, who worked magic with this cast enabling each individual to bring comedy gold, gut wrenching moments and heartbreaking dialogue.
These moments were spearheaded by Bradshaw and Hallard who lead the cast superbly, bringing us a plethora of well delivered lines and exceptional chemistry between their characters.
I found Sara Crowe portraying the lovable Mrs Campbell, to be the dark horse of this production – she may have presented as the older, eccentric woman, but her comedic timing and one liners were fresh and definitely crowd pleasers. You couldn’t help but wish she would adopt you or visit her for a home-cooked meal!
Crowe’s calmness made a great clash with Rose Shalloo’s performance of Jodie, who despite her initial whiny tone and assertiveness, managed to win over the audience’s affection. Completing the cast were Donna Berlin as the strong Sally and Toby Holloway (understudy for Andrew Horton) as Christian. Both were well-suited to their roles and had great character development as we got to know them throughout the show.
The set was impressive; despite its initial simplicity, its revolving staging gave us a new setting with every rotation, from bedroom, to backstage, to photo studio or living room. It enabled us to follow the band with ease as they journeyed throughout the story and even gave us samples of all the top ABBA hits with each turn.
If you’re an ABBA fan and want somewhere to spend your money, money, money, then take a chance on The Way Old Friends Do, on at York Theatre Royal until Saturday 10 June, as it completes its 2023 tour.
Tickets start from £15 and are available via the York Theatre Royal website.