The Way Old Friends Do Reviews

A reviews round-up for Ian Hallard’s new comedy The Way Old Friends Do at the Park Theatre in London, and originally staged earlier this month at the Birmingham Rep.

The show is now playing at London’s Park Theatre until 15 April 2023.

The League of Gentleman’s Mark Gatiss (The Unfriend) directs, with a cast that includes his real-life husband – writer and star Ian Hallard (The Boys in the Band), plus Donna Berlin (Doctors), James Bradshaw (Endeavour), Sara Crowe (Private Lives), Andrew Horton (Jupiter’s Legacy) and Rose Shalloo (Call The Midwife).

The play also features the voices of Miriam Margolyes and Paul O’Grady.

The Way Old Friends Do is billed as a tender, uplifting, hilarious show about two school friends in 1988 who tentatively come out to one another: one as gay, the other – more shockingly – as an ABBA fan! Nearly thirty years later, a chance meeting sets them on a brand-new path and they decide to form the world’s first ABBA tribute band – in drag! But can their friendship survive the tribulations of a life on the road which includes platform boots, fake beards and a distractingly attractive stranger?

The creative team also includes Set & Costume Designer Janet Bird, Lighting Designer Andrew Exeter, Sound Designer Ben Harrison, Casting Director Marc Frankum and Assistant Director Gavin Joseph.

Mark Gatiss recently directed new West End comedy The Unfriend at the Criterion Theatre starring Reece Shearsmith, Amanda Abbington and Frances Barber, which runs until 16 April 2023. He will also star as John Gielgud in The Motive and the Cue at the National Theatre in April 2023; and his adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story is coming back to Alexandra Palace this Christmas.

Book tickets to The Way Old Friends Do tickets at the Park Theatre in London


The Way Old Friends Do reviews

The Guardian
★★★

"super troupers shine in a fun, frothy comedy (Park Theatre)"

"Two friends put together an Abba tribute band and explore ideas of male friendship, homophobia and family in Ian Hallard’s witty play"

"Ian Hallard’s fun, frothy comedy is as much about complicated friendship between gay men of a certain age as it is an ode to the pop group"

"Exuberantly directed by Mark Gatiss, the production keeps the band’s singing off stage, but a groovily rotating set (designed by Janet Bird) reveals everything from dressing-room banter to the bonds and fractures that form between them."

"The band, in full regalia, are a vision to behold (the costumes, also by Bird, are phenomenal) and the show has the buoyant watchability of a TV comedy. There are some good comic lines and the best of them sound like Oscar Wilde if he were put through a modern-day Grindr, of sorts – but among them are softer, more predictable jokes, albeit still sweetly silly."

"A must-see for Abba fans; fun and laughs for the rest of us."

Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
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TimeOut
★★★

"Mark Gatiss directs his husband Ian Hallard’s extremely endearing comedy-drama about a group of queer ABBA superfans (Park Theatre)"

"The play’s exploration of the contours of a middle-aged friendship – not a romance – between two queer men is also a refreshing twist on its rom-com trappings."

"The production itself – directed with a light touch by Hallard’s husband, Mark Gatiss, no less – coasts along on a wave of chirpy charm, even if we never really get to see the gender-swapped band perform"

"It’s just nice, sometimes, to watch a bunch of well-meaning characters trying their best, even if they mess up. However, the script has its threadbare patches."

Tom Wicker, TimeOut
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The Times
★★

"A drag comedy that needs more va-va-voom (Birmingham Rep)"

"Grindr, Abba and an excruciatingly unexpected school reunion form the kick-off point for this comedy of disco and discontent"

"Sharp one-liners abound in the opening scenes... Yet overall the tone is uneven"

"This is not to say there’s any shortage of compelling and important ideas simmering below the surface of the script."

"Yet while Hallard is a warm and charismatic presence on stage, his script needs to dig deeper into the subjects he raises for the characters to breathe and for the comedy to have lift-off."

Rachel Halliburton, The Times
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The Stage
★★★★

"Full of heart (Park Theatre)"

"Affectionate new comedy exploring the highs and lows of friendships and fandom"

"Among all the platform heels and synthetic wigs, Hallard offers pertinent observations on mature gay friendships, while contemplating a lingering legacy of gay shame."

"Hallard weaves these issues into a humorous script that at first resembles Richard Harris’ Stepping Out and then rapidly turns into All About Eve"

"The female characters are slightly underwritten, but they get all the best lines, and inflict an interesting dynamic on Peter and Edward’s friendship."

"Gatiss’ buoyant production finds an easy balance between the drama and the broader comedy, complemented by a clever revolving composite set from designer Janet Bird."

Paul Vale, The Stage
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The Sunday Times
★★★

"This Abba comedy by Mark Gaitis is jolly good fun (Birmingham Rep)"

"Mamma mia! It’s camp and funny — and even includes a gay fantasy about Nick Clegg"

"This production creaks. Some of the acting is ho-hum, the script is gluey and the director (Mark Gatiss, quite well known) underexcels himself. Yet, as you leave the theatre, you think: “Well, that was reasonably jolly.”"

"They might have liked more songs (of which there are oddly few). A woman beside me crooned in a melancholy fashion whenever we heard some Abba. The real star of this quirky show was maybe not so much the music as the elusive ideal it presents and the harmless fun some people derive from being Abba fans."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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📷 Main photo: The Way Old Things Do - Ian Hallard (Peter) + Rose Shalloo (Jodie) + Sara Crowe (Mrs Campbell) + James Bradshaw (Edward). Photo by Darren Bell

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3 thoughts on “The Way Old Friends Do Reviews”

  1. Mary Ann Dearlove

    Dreadful, we left in the interval. We went tonight in York and left in the interval. Unsubtle, amateurish acting, very disappointing I can’t understand why it has such good reviews online!

  2. We thought the same. Really disappointed. The acting was awful and it could have been so good. We thought act 2 would turn into an ABBA drag party but no such luck.

  3. Went to see this tonight in Brighton this evening and was very disappointed. It felt very much like an amateur dramatics performance; completely overacted, no subtlety at all! We left at the interval and we certainly weren’t the only ones. Such a shame as we are all big Abba fans

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