The Way Old Friends Do

"The Way Old Friends Do is heart-warming, funny and I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do recommend a visit !"

A celebration of the LGBT community, an ABBA plotline and true friendship at its heart, what’s not to love about this brand new show penned by and starring Ian Hallard.  To quote Hallard “write about what you know” and his love for ABBA certainly shines through with some of the most impressive random facts about the 3 Swede’s and 1 Norwegian I’ve ever heard!

Set in 2015, Peter (Ian Hallard) and Edward (James Bradshaw) meet via the often risky medium of social media, Grindr to be exact, however as a facial shot wasn’t shared between the two (you can make up your own mind what was shared!), they had no idea until meeting at Peter’s flat that they were old school friends. Romance was clearly not on the cards, and they proceeded to catch up on the years that had passed.  Edward is married to much older ‘Melvin’ and Peter is single, however one thing remained, his love for the music of ABBA.  Edward hatches a plan to create the worlds first drag, gender swapping ABBA tribute band and after a bit of persuading Peter agrees.

Hallard and Bradshaw have wonderful chemistry on stage.  The relationship between the old school friends feels awkward to start with, as would be expected between two people that hadn’t seen each other for years, however as the show progresses, they seem to rekindle the old comradery they shared as teenagers, enjoying and relishing in their love of performing together.

The creation of the band comes from Peter’s friend Sally (Donna Berlin) who works at the local ‘Library Theatre’.  The ABBA tribute band they had booked in cancels and an alternative is required.  Auditions are held and young, ambitious actor Jodie (Rose Shalloo) arrives with verbal diarrhoea and a willingness to impress.  Shalloo was mesmerising to watch with expertly flowing dialogue, wonderful comic timing and a warmness that bought Jodie to life.  Berlin commanded the stage with Sally’s no nonsense attitude.  She is a confidant to Peter and their relationship was that of love, just not romantically.

The band was completed by Mrs Campbell (Tariye Peterside).  This character really completes the dynamic of the group and Peterside provides an outstanding performance, with exceptional humour and a quick wit.

After many successful gigs under their belt, we are introduced to Christian (Andrew Horton) the head of a Facebook group called ‘ABBA Chat’ who infiltrates the band offering to be their official photographer and latterly becomes romantically involved with Edward, however I won’t spoil the twist in relation to this character and his somewhat ulterior motive.  Needless to say, there is a happy ending and a small tear may have rolled down my cheek during the final scene.

The staging, built by Birmingham REP’s Workshop Team was very minimal with four large letters spelling out ABBA as the backdrop.  Every scene change included a classic ABBA track and a 180-degree rotation, together with impressive lighting by Andrew Exeter.  The iconic costumes by Janet Bird made famous by the quartet included white bell bottom outfits and the classic white mini dresses emblazoned with blue and orange cats.  Hallard and Bradshaw carried off these outfits with finesse and once twinned with the wigs of Agnetha and Anni-Frid the resemblance was iconic in itself!

For a show making it’s premiere in Birmingham, it felt right that Brummie Ian Hallard provided us with an authentic accent.  It’s always a joy, as a fellow Brummie, to hear our rather fabulous accent on stage.  There were plenty of Birmingham/West Midlands references in the show too which always raise a laugh, whether these will be kept in as the show tours the country is unknown.

The Way Old Friends Do is heart-warming, funny and I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do recommend a visit! 

This show was reviewed on the 23rd February 2023.  It runs at Birmingham REP until the 4th March 2023. Tickets available here:


Photo credit: Darren Bell

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