Abba star bestows his "blessing" on a drag tribute show in Birmingham

The show's ABBA group

One of Benny Andersson's songs from the band Abba was given the extremely rare permission to be used in a brand-new stage production.

In The Way Old Friends Do, two friends create the first drag-themed Abba tribute band in history.

It was written by Birmingham-born actor and playwright Ian Hallard, and it was directed by Mark Gatiss, who is best known for his roles in Doctor Who and The League of Gentlemen.

On Wednesday, it had its world premiere at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

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

"[Abba] hardly ever agree to have their songs performed. We had to ask for special authorization. ".

Ian Hallard
The Birmingham-born singer Ian Hallard claims that the Abba icon gave the go-ahead for the use of one of his songs.

The play is named after a song from an Abba album that is played at the conclusion of the production.

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

According to the playwright, it was crucial for him to set the play in his hometown.

Few things are set in Birmingham, and one of [the play's] lovely aspects is the reaction to the mention of places like Acocks Green, Shirley, and Kidderminster, according to Mr. Hallard.

It's actually really energizing and significant to have characters from Birmingham who sound like they do.  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
The play was written by Hallard and his husband Mark Gatiss.

The play concludes with a drag performance of an Abba song.

"Getting made up will take a full-time professional drag queen several hours.

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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