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BrumHour saw The Way Old Friends Do at the invite of Birmingham Rep.
By George Elsmere-Whitney twitter.com/caramellattekiss
Review: The Way Old Friends Do at Birmingham Rep
⭐⭐⭐⭐”A high camp love letter to friendship and fandom”
Directed by Mark Gatiss, written by Ian Hallard
The Way Old Friends Do tells the tale of two old school friends, who reunite years later to form an ABBA tribute act with a difference; they’re going to perform in drag.
With the help of stage manager Sally (Donna Berlin), aspiring actress Jodie (Rose Shalloo), and rehearsal pianist Mrs Campbell (played by Tariyé Peterside at this performance), Edward (James Bradshaw) and Peter (Ian Hallard) put together a gender-swapped tribute to ABBA. Things start well, but much like the original group, tensions within the group soon start to cause problems. When the gorgeous Christian (Andrew Horton) begins to show an interest in the group (and its stars), these tensions only grow worse.
The show is written by Ian Hallard, who also stars as Peter. Hallard has created a delightfully camp love letter to ABBA, with a focus on queer friendship and the joy that comes from being a fan. The small cast are all excellent, easily moving between having the audience laughing hard to delivering surprisingly tender moments. The real stand-out is Tariyé Peterside as Mrs Campbell. Her performance as the slightly confused Mrs C, whose job is to sit behind the piano while wearing a false beard and nodding, is absolutely hilarious. Hallard has gifted her with some of the funniest lines in the show, and she relishes each one.
Hallard and Bradshaw play off each other brilliantly as Peter and Edward. Their affectionate banter does a great job of making it clear that these two are friends with a lot of history. It makes a refreshing change to have the central relationship in a show not be a romantic one.
The set, designed by Janet Bird, is deceptively simple, made up of the letters of the name ABBA. The staging makes clever use of a revolve to change scenes. Bird has also designed the costumes, and has lovingly recreated some of ABBA’s most iconic looks, including the cat dresses, Agnetha’s Eurovision outfit, and plenty of platform boots.
For ABBA fans, there is a lot to enjoy, with facts and lyrics tucked into the script, those amazing costumes, and snippets of music. The show is not only for fans of the Swedish icons, however. At its core, this is a show about love; the love between friends and family, love for music, and love for yourself.
A high camp love letter to friendship and fandom, The Way Old Friends Do is at Birmingham Rep from 23rd February to 4th March 2023. Book tickets here: birmingham-rep.co.uk/whats-on/the-way-old-friends-do-2