Review - The Way Old Friends Do - National Tour

The Way Old Friends Do - National Tour

In this new play we meet Peter (Ian Hallard) and Edward (James Bradshaw), old school chums who lost touch and are reunited unexpectedly on what should be a hot Grindr date.

Their friendship rekindles after many years apart and soon a plan is formed to help a local theatre who has lost their Abba tribute band, the men are going to put together a gender swapped group and put on a one night only performance as ‘Head Over Heels’. Jodie (Rose Shaloo) is enlisted to be Bjorn and the wonderfully straight laced Mrs Campbell (Sara Crowe) takes on Benny. Chaos threatens to take over but everything is kept together by stage manager Sally (Donna Berlin).

Ian Hallard has written this piece as well as starring in it and it’s clear he is a big Abba fan. The script is littered with references to their songs and their story as a band. There are some wonderfully witty jokes sprinkled throughout. Several moments over the evening will tug on your heartstrings such as Peter coming out to his nan in middle age. There are important themes brought up throughout the piece though none feel like they are dealt with properly.

The first half feels a little long and some sections I felt could do with a little tightening up. Things quickly pick up in the second act though, the story moves quickly and things in the band aren’t going well; infidelity, conflict and heartbreak all becoming a bigger problem than the dodgy facial hair Mrs C is lumbered with as Benny!

Everyone puts in a solid performance here; James Bradshaw is perfectly tactless as Edward, a flamboyant man who is still struggling with his sexuality despite having had a partner for 19 years. He is easily swayed by his internalised shame and the young buck Christian (Andrew Horton) who though seemingly innocent turns out not so.

Rose Shalloo is wonderful as Jodie; sweet, innocent and dim, she is a character you warm to instantly, though she's always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, leaving the audience laughing.  Rose does a great job in this role using her skills to take you on board and draw you into her story.

The prim and proper Mrs Campbell is brought to life stunningly by Sara Crowe. Mrs C is seemingly going a bit do-lally and isn’t sure what she’s signed up for when she agrees to be in the band. Sara is the true star of this show here, with all the best laugh out loud lines and a fantastic physical comedy performance, she’s outstanding.

The design of the show is simple from Janet Bird, rotating letters which spell ABBA give ample opportunity for small set changes from living room to rehearsal room to dressing room, we go all over the place. The costumes too are perfectly designed, you recognise the homages to the band instantly which have been put together with fantastic attention to detail.

This is a good play and worth seeing if you’re looking for an enjoyable night at the theatre. It’s a little predictable but that doesn’t take away from the lovely messages it contains of friendship and love.

This show was reviewed on the 2nd May 2023 at the Theatre Royal Brighton where it runs until the 6th May.  Tickets available here: The Way Old Friends Do | May 2023 | Theatre Royal Brighton, Brighton | ATG Tickets

Full tour details for The Way Old Friends Do can be found here: The Way Old Friends Do - Touring the UK in 2023

*** stars

Rosie Browne

Catch Rosie every Monday from midday for 'The Musical Lunch Box' here on Box Office Radio

Photo credit: Darren Bell