If you like Abba you will like The Way Old Friends Do.

That is the short, one-sentence review of the new play that troops its way into the Theatre Royal Brighton this week.

Filled with colour and punctuated with snippets of the Swedish sensation’s greatest hits, the comedy caters to the super fans and casual listeners alike while also exploring themes of friendship.

However, do not expect the drag to be the star of the show. Instead, prepare to find a tender story which emotionally explores the friendship between two gay men.

Written and starring Ian Hallard and directed by his husband, Sherlock and Doctor Who star Mark Gatiss, the play has incredible comic timing in places.

Sara Crowe’s Mrs Campbell feels a standout character in this aspect; her humour so clearly contrasts from the bands colourful exuberance and provides multiple moments of “great fun”.


In other areas, the play also proves emotional, particularly in its exploration of the main pair’s experience of being gay as older men.

The Argus: Ian Hallard's Peter, left, and James Bradshaw's Edward, right, prepare for one of their drag performancesIan Hallard's Peter, left, and James Bradshaw's Edward, right, prepare for one of their drag performances (Image: Darren Bell)

One exchange between Hallard’s protagonist, Peter, and his nan, voiced by Miriam Margolyes, stands out in this regard. By coming out to her, the play creates a touching moment of understanding.

It is also worth noting the audience’s audible emotion at the beginning of the show on hearing the cameoing voice of the late Paul O’Grady, which offers an unintended extra layer of emotion just weeks after his death.

For a show heavily about an Abba drag tribute act, however, perhaps you may expect the tribute act to be more prevalent.

The band in their costumes are a sight to behold and yet we only catch glimpses of them a handful of times.

In that sense, the play feels like it may lack some of the colour one might expect going into the show.

The Argus: Ian Hallard in full Abba costumeIan Hallard in full Abba costume (Image: Darren Bell)

Nonetheless, what it still offers is a fantastic, colourful evening of 70s nostalgia.

For the die-hard fans, the play sprinkles enough nods to some of the band’s obscurer songs to convince you that this is made for fellow Abba aficionados.

For the rest of us, we still have a chance to sink our teeth into a funny, warm story of male friendship and relationships.