ABBASOLUTELY A DELIGHT
If there’s a method for a cheerful touring play in our frazzled and disputatious instances, it will go like this: heat however a bit impolite, affirmative however absurd, with sudden large laughs, a splash of nostalgic feeling and portraits of some relationships we’ve all survived and really feel it’s time to snort at.
Which isn’t to say that Ian Hallard’s play is formulaic: simply to sign that you just’re a curmudgeon should you don’t heat to it. Particularly if certainly one of your desires of comradeship includes beginning an iffy pub tribute band.
For right here is Peter (performed by Hallard himself), alone in his lateish thirties, preening nervously for a Grindr date as his Nan rings up about Sunday lunch. The date proves to be Eddie, a barely much less nicely preserved however much more camp schoolfriend. It’s his first time on the app as a result of he has a strong, however slightly older, civil accomplice and in his unsure approach needs an journey. Momentary embarrassment (“this isn’t going to occur”) turns into memory: when Eddie (James Bradshaw) got here out way back so did Peter – not but as homosexual however as an Abba superfan. They fall in with Sally (Donna Berlin), a lesbian whose spouse is a show-promoter missing a tribute band, and collectively recruit yowling wannabe Jodie (Rose Shalloo). She is a bravely aspiring however pretty terrible actress, (“at drama faculty I corrected a director who thought an Olivier was an actor!”).
Add, picked up faute de mieux as a result of she will be able to play the piano and be Benny, Mrs Hermione Campbell. She’s an actual creation (given full rein by Sara Crowe) who’s at a unfastened finish proper now as a result of she thought her sister was staying “however that was 5 years in the past” . As a result of she by no means buys a brand new kitchen calendar. You possibly can see why Mark Gatiss, king of darkish innocent absurdity, was the proper director for this.
All in all, it might hardly hit a greater cultural spot, with even the edgiest raving in regards to the holograms in Abba Voyage : however alongside that, it’s a second to recollect the therapeutic energy of trustworthy drag, earlier than pronoun-mania and the fashionability of full-on critical offence-taking trans identities. Eddie and Peter don’t wish to be girls or to mock them, any greater than Grayson Perry does. They only must free themselves into the ornamental flamboyance too lengthy denied to males. They get the joke the viewers will get the joke. It’s completely satisfied slightly than bullying id politics or nasty RuPaul competitiveness . Eddie’s dressing-up camp is of the outdated defensive sort: Peter simply needs his Nan to benefit from the present and never be shocked. There are various Abbaoid moments to like, not least Eddie’s first look in an orange leotard and the one, mesmerizing, ultimate second the place the 2 outdated pals reconcile.
And lots of, many treasurable traces poking skewers into our tradition typically. A favorite being from Mrs Campbell, about discovering Michael Palin a contact creepy. “A bit unsettling. All that travelling, what’s he operating FROM?” Pleasure all the best way. Have a contented tour!
seen at finish of Park Theatre run, however now tour:
Guildford, Exeter & onward to 10 June. https://www.thewayoldfriendsdo.com/
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