The Birmingham drag tribute play receives the "blessing" of an ABBA star

From the show, an ABBA group

Benny Andersson, the composer of ABBA, has given the extremely rare consent for one of his songs to be incorporated into a brand-new stage production.

The Way Old Friends Do centers on two friends who create the first Abba tribute band ever to perform in drag.

The League of Gentlemen and Doctor Who star Mark Gatiss, who is married to Ian Hallard, a playwright and actor from Birmingham, directed the film.

The Birmingham Repertory Theatre hosted the world premiere on Wednesday.

Benny is aware of it and has approved of it, Mr. Hallard said.

"Abba hardly ever consents to people performing their songs. We had to request a special exemption. ".

Ian Hallard
The Abba star reportedly gave permission for one of Birmingham-born Ian Hallard's songs to be used.

An Abba album track that is played at the conclusion of the play bears the same name.

It's very bright and spangly and fun, but with a core of truth and sadness to it, said Mr. Gatiss, adding that the play captures both the joy and the pathos of the band's songs. ".

The playwright told the BBC that having the play take place in his hometown was important to him.

Acocks Green, Shirley, and Kidderminster are mentioned in [the play], which is one of the lovely aspects of it, according to Mr. Hallard. "Comparatively few things are set in Birmingham," he continued.

"Having characters who are from Birmingham and who sound like they do is actually really energizing and significant.  I'm very proud of being from Birmingham and to have it here at The Rep, which was a theatre I visited as a child, is a dream come true. " .

Mark Gratiss and Ian Hallerd
To write the play, Hallard collaborated with his husband Mark Gatiss.

An Abba performance in drag serves as the play's climax.

"Getting made up takes several hours for a full-time drag queen.

Mr Gatiss jokingly said it was "hell" to work so closely with his husband, and added: "It's been great.  If I were directing it and I wasn't married to Ian, I could just go home at the end of the day and close the door.  Sometimes I have to jam the door closed.  But apart from that, it's been a lovely experience. ".

The Way Old Friends Do is the first original production to be performed in the Rep's studio space since the pandemic.  The play embarks on a nationwide tour after its run ends on 4 March.

.  We have about eight minutes, and it shows.  But the whole thing about the play is that it's about a bunch of plucky amateurs, like The Full Monty," said Mr Hallard

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