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Review | The Way Old Friends Do | The Lowry | 22/05/2023

‘The Way Old Friends Do’ tackles all of the questions you never thought to ask;

Is ‘bollocks’ swearing? Is Nick Clegg on Grindr? And most importantly, is the word screaming out for a drag Abba Tribute? The answer to the latter is an unqualified yes!

We meet Peter (Ian Hallard) and Edward (James Bradshaw), two old friends connected by their love of Abba. When an Abba tribute pulls out of a local performance, they decide in a sea of more conventional tribute acts, to create the world’s first drag Abba tribute! With Jodie (Rose Shalloo) and Mrs Campbell (Tariye Peterside) onboard, the band is complete. However, what starts out as a one off explodes into something bigger, with more than the odd bump in the road.

The show begins with a radio host’s voice being played in the auditorium. The crowd gave uplifting audible ‘awws’ when they heard the voice of the late Paul O’Grady. This really warmed my heart, and this heart-warming aura continued to pulse through the show.

The simple staging, in tribute to the Abba logo worked well. Rotating, it enabled quick and seamless scene changes from house to restaurant and dressing room to stage. With each transition there played a different Abba song, poignant to that particular scene. It is clear that this was written by a true Abba superfan who had read more than a glossary about the band, unlike Mrs Campbell!

Written by its lead actor Ian Hallard, it is clear to see his love for the famous foursome through his writing. This really is a love letter to the famous Swedish supergroup. There are easter eggs galore, from the Abba cats hanging as prints in Peters house to the tribute acts poster featuring a take on the famous tin foil picture. Although on the surface this is a show about an unconventional Abba tribute band, it's really about friendship and how music brings people together.

The jokes were plentiful throughout the 2hour 10minute play, often cutting close to the bone, much to the audience’s clear delight. I particularly enjoyed the sprinkling of theatrical gags from Laurence Olivier to Blood Brothers. Written from the heart, ‘The Way Old Friends Do’ felt timeless and relatable. Like many others, I often find amusement in the hilariously inventive nature of tribute act names, and enjoyed them poking fun at this.

Although not ground-breaking in its story, it does exactly what it needs to do with bucket loads of heart and humour. It is refreshing to see a story around on those in the LGBT+ community that focuses on friendship, rather than more typical stories of romance. With the cast in full Abba costume, a Mamma Mia-esq curtain call performance felt missed. However, the acapella performance of the Abba deep-cut ‘The Way Old Friends Do’ prior to this was moving and a very fitting close to this heartfelt show.

'The Way Old Friends Do' is on at The Lowry until Saturday 26/05/2023. See below for booking information:

Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.


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