The Way Old Friends Do, The Rep, Birmingham 23 February 2023 to 4 March, 2023 then on tour 3*** David Gray & Paul Gray

Two old school friends who have fallen out of touch, Peter (Ian Hallard) and Edward (James Bradshaw), meet, by way of enormous coincidence, via Grindr.  They, rather improbably, decide to form a drag ABBA tribute band.  This is the premise of The Way Old Friends Do; a play that is a tribute to fandom and friendship. 

It’s a quick-fire piece, both in terms of its high, rapid and very funny gag count, and in terms of its fragmentary narrative structure, which consists of short, vignette-like scenes.  The result is punchy and pacey.  Nothing drags (if you’ll pardon the pun). 

For a play about putting on a show, there isn’t much about the show being put on.  We don’t get to see any of the trials and tribulations involved in the undeniably challenging task that the protagonists have set themselves.  That all happens off-stage.  As a result, there is no sense of jeopardy or risk

The first act is very much about establishing characters and relationships.  The characters have just enough flesh to hide their stereotypical skeletons, and all are engaging and played with commitment and heart.  As the permanently bewildered Mrs. Campbell, understudy, Tariye Peterside, comes close to stealing the show.  However, it does feel like a very long build-up, and it is never that clear what we are building up to.

The story hits more of a stride in the second act with the arrival of Christian (Andrew Horton), a hunky young Australian photographer and fellow ABBA fan. He charms both Peter and Edward and inveigles himself into the group.  Alarm bells should start ringing, but they don’t. 

It is clear, from a conventional narrative perspective, that  Christian is to be the disrupter in the drama, but there is no hint of his malignancy until he actually does the dirty.  When this emotional upset does arrive, it is sudden, which is twisty, and unexpected.  However, with no real preparation or setup, it feels like it has somehow been parachuted in from another play.

The production is slick and the dialogue is easy and witty.  It’s a play that has clearly been written from a place of great fondness and respect for its subject matter, but this does not stop it from being irreverent and wicked when it needs to be.  The conclusion is warm, heartfelt, and satisfying but it might benefit from a little more drama along the way.


Sally – Donna Berlin, Edward – James Bradshaw, Mrs. Campbell – Tariye Peterside, Peter – Ian Hallard, Christian – Andrew Horton, Jodie – Rose Shalloo


Writer – Ian Hallard, Director – Mark Gatiss, Set & Costume Designer – Janet Bird, Lighting – Andrew Exeter, Sound – Ben Harrison, Casting – Marc Frankum, Assistant Director – Gavin Joseph

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