abba pic

Taking a chance as ABBA Pictures: Darren Bell

The Way Old Friends Do

Birmingham Rep


ABBA are a household name, adored by many across the world with their songs underscoring many celebrations and life milestones over the years. Love them or hate them, many of us; fans or otherwise will know the words to quite a few of their iconic hits.

Times of joy and times of sorrow, we will always see it through. Oh, I don’t care what comes tomorrow, we can face it together. The way old friends do. The title of the play, taken from one of ABBA’s lesser-known songs captures the heart of this play.

This brand-new comedy takes us on a journey of friendship, old and new and is not only jam packed with fantastic one liners but is moving and full of affection.

The set by Janet Bird is simplistic, yet cleverly designed with a revolve and two doors either side that spell out ABBA as the backdrop: transporting us between the various locations with ease. This is complimented by the lighting design from Andrew Exeter which gives it a real seventies/disco vibe.

The play begins in the Birmingham Library Theatre where we meet aspiring actress fresh from drama school, Jodie (Rose Shalloo) who has arrived to audition for Bjorn or Benny; you can’t help but like her as she fizzes and sparkles with a comic nervous energy from the offset and throughout.

She is joined by Sally (Donna Berlin) a lesbian stage manager, the comforting, down to earth and no-nonsense friend of Peter whose partner is having IVF, played with warmth and realism.


 Rose Shalloo as Jodie

The play centres on the relationship between childhood school friends, Peter (played by writer Ian Hallard) a self-confessed ABBA superfan and sharp-tongued Edward (James Bradshaw) who reconnect unexpectedly years later via Grinder.

Both gay men, one single and one married who have no romantic interest in one another reminisce about their school days, coming out and their love for ABBA that had previously resulted in a disastrous and embarrassing performance. The pair give equally good performances and work well together to create a believable and heart-warming partnership.

When they agree to meet Sally for lunch a few days later she is in a quandary as she needs to fill a gig for an ABBA tribute band that have cancelled at short notice. Edward boldly suggests that he and Peter step into the breech but with the brilliant twist that they take the roles of Agnetha and Frida and do it in drag! There were several Birmingham drag queens in the audience who definitely gave them more than a run for their money in the make-up and glamour department!

They are joined by understudy, Tariye Peterside who is simply a joy as Mrs C, a rehearsal pianist who steps up to be the band’s Benny, equipped with full beard and head banging, her performance was hilarious. With Jodie successfully securing the role of Bjorn after their first choice turned it down, the tribute band, Head over heels is formed!

A special mention must go to Miriam Margolyes who gives us the voice of Peter’s Nan. Peter has still not told his Nan that he is gay and there is a lovely scene just before the first ABBA performance where he plucks up the courage to tell her and invites her to the show.

Despite not being on stage together they manage to convey a genuine relationship full of tenderness. The audience warm to her straight away, her accent was spot on, and she absolutely captures the essence of a Brummy Nan perfectly.

eter and edward

Ian Hallard  as Peter and  James Bradshaw as Edward.

With their first performance successfully under their sparkly belts we are introduced to the final cast member who doubles up as the waiter and the gorgeous but devious Christian (Andrew Horton). Christian is another ABBA superfan and worms his way in to the band firstly as a photographer and social media guru. He makes an unexpected play for Edward, who can’t quite believe his luck and subsequently falls for his dazzling good looks and charm.

It is all a ploy so that Christian can take over the band, playing the two friends off against each other and eventually Peter finds that it’s all Slipping through my fingers as he learns the horrible truth.

This is ultimately a story of love and friendship, the ups and downs of life and what gets you through, whether it be music or those special people in your life that lift you up when you need them to. A thoroughly enjoyable evening so why not Take a chance and grab a ticket for this ABBAtastic production before it leaves Brum to depart on a UK tour, you won’t be disappointed. 

Emily Armstrong and Dexter Whitehead


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