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BrumHour saw Everybody’s talking about Jamie the invite of The Alexandra.
For Brum Radio’s Interval Theatre Dave Massey spoke to actor Amy Ellen Richardson about her role in Everybody’s Talking about Jamie. Listen here:
By Dave Massey twitter.com/BrumHour
This production features strong language and both homophobic and racial slurs.
Review: Everybody’s talking about Jamie at The Alexandra
Directed by Matt Ryan, Original Director Jonathan Butterell, Book and Lyrics by Tom MacRae Music Dan Gillespie Sells Choreography by Kate Prince
The hit musical based on a BBC Three documentary about Jamie Campbell, a schoolboy who wants to be a drag queen, restarts what is essentially its first UK Tour.
Set in Sheffield, Jamie New (Layton Williams) turning is sixteen and dreaming in careers class about his own future. He has a singular goal of being a drag queen. His smart friend Priti (Sharan Phull) supports him, as does his mother Margaret New (Amy Ellen Richardson) and her comedic best friend Ray (Shobna Gulati). However, his fairly absent father (Cameron Johnson) and class “mate” Dean (George Sampson) have a much more homophobic attitude towards Jamie. One which Miss Hedge (Lara Denning) seems to support.
This is a vibrant, brash piece of working-class musical theatre, which avoids having traditional male role models, and replaces them with women in key influential roles. The main cast is rounded out by Shane Richie as Hugo aka Loco Chanelle who puts in a much more understated turn as “older” drag queen who has opened their own drag inspired clothing store.
It’s the songs for me that drive the story, there are plenty of solos that serve to flesh out people’s characters and the audience seems to lap up every second. There are echoes of Cinderella, with ball gowns, fairy godmothers, and a ball plus choreography which combines street dance, floor gymnastics and ballet.
The set and therefore Sheffield are depicted as somewhat grey and industrial which is a world away from the hilly city with a monster pub culture that I’ve visited myself. The set itself is a series of huge moving boxes which become Jamie’s kitchen at home, a shop, a dressing room and a bedroom. The rear projection is creative particularly when we see Priti’s astronomy inspired bedroom.
Tonight’s first night wasn’t without technical issues which added five minutes at the start and ten minutes in the latter part of the first half. This meant it was 10:35pm by the time the huge curtain call came and luckily the second half seemed to run pretty smoothly. The audience seemed pretty forgiving, like myself they’ve probably waited nearly 550 days since the previous press night was cancelled by the arrival of Covid in March 2020. The pandemic is referenced throughout the script to make it pretty current.
The onstage band was pretty loud but this didn’t stop Amy Ellen Richardson’s impressive vocals, and hugely talented Layton Williams shines with his high kicks and catwalk struts.
For many people, this will be a very important piece of theatre that like TV’s It’s A Sin or RuPaul’s Drag Race UK will offer the kind of representation which hasn’t been seen before. It will trigger discussions and conversations with parents and their kids. Birmingham Pride has found itself in September 2021 rather than its regular May Spring Bank Holiday so this fresh, current musical is a timely reminder of the diverse and rich culture and cultures around us.
I loved Everybody’s talking about Jamie, I knew I would. It was warm and joyful, thoughtful and personal. Hopefully you will too.
See Everybody’s talking about Jamie at The Alexandra until 18th September 2021. The production heads on tour until 30th April 2022. Find out more here: everybodystalkingaboutjamie.co.uk/2020-uk-tour