It’s not surprising everybody is talking about Jamie. I’ll be talking about him for a long time, to anyone who’ll listen.
Well, not Jamie exactly, but the show Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, which came to the Hull New Theatre on Monday night.
Based on a true story, it recounts the trials and tribulations of 16-year-old Sheffield schoolboy, Jamie New (Layton Williams), who has always liked to dress up in women’s clothes and who decides to wear a dress to his school’s prom.
Disowned by his dad, who once caught him in his mum’s dress at the age of eight and ridiculing and bullying by some of his school pals, doesn’t deter the young teen from fulfilling his dream of becoming a drag queen when he leaves school.
Luckily for Jamie, his mum, Margaret (Amy Ellen Richardson), embraces her son’s dreams, only slightly discouraging him when she thinks he has gone too far with a gaudy prom dress he models for her and her best friend, Ray (Shobna Gulati).
Margaret goes to extraordinary lengths to keep Jamie from being hurt by his father’s disinterest in him; lengths which cause her son much heartache when he discovers her deception.
Reading what I’ve written so far, the production sounds gloomy and upsetting, but let me tell you, it is nothing of the sort.
It’s a riotous celebration of love, acceptance, enlightenment and friendship, which all combine to overshadow the bullying, beating, insults and upset Jamie has to endure to reach his goal – which he does in a most unforgettable scene. And pardon the pun but, oh boy, makes the most beautiful girl.
The 10 youngsters making up Jamie’s classmates are the most amazing dancers and singers, and every one of them played their part in bringing an often moving story to life. They all deserved their turn in the spotlight, none more so than Jamie’s best friend, a serious young Muslim girl called Pritti Pasha (Sharan Phull) who proved to be a sweet loyal friend.
All the youngsters also acted as scene shifters and their dexterity made any changes happen almost invisibly on a stage whose setting was nothing exciting, just simple and perfect for the production, as was the lighting.
The musicians, visible on high, played magnificently, accompanying memorable performances such as He’s My Boy, sung beautifully by Richardson; It Means Beautiful (a heart-warming rendition by Phull) and the rousing Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, sung by Jamie’s classmates.
The always knowledgeable Hull New Theatre audience noisily greeted the arrival on stage of Jamie’s “mentor”, former drag queen Loco Chanelle, played by Roy Haylock, a “breakout star” on TV’s RuPaul’s Drag Race. Haylock’s dual role as dress shop owner, Hugo, was a definite highlight.
But the superstar rating must go to Williams as Jamie. His outstanding performance not only gave me great pleasure, but also educated me about a world I had little knowledge about and that I can now sympathise with.
Admittedly, his seven-inch heel, red sparkly stilettos might have been a step too far, but what the heck; the sight of him sashaying across the stage in them certainly brightened up a cold, drizzly night in Hull.
Running until Saturday, December 4th, 2021. 7.30pm nightly with 2.30pm matinees on Thursday, December 2nd and Saturday, December 4th.
Tickets cost from £20. Call (01482) 300306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk
Reviewer Jackie Foottit
Reviewed: 29th November 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★