Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre) | Review By Lewis C. Baird

‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ has been a smash hit in London’s West End since 2017, and now three years later it is heading on it’s first national tour. I headed to Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre for it’s Scottish debut to see why everybody’s talking about Jamie!

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is based on a true story, following Jamie New, who is sixteen and lives on a council estate in Sheffield. Jamie doesn’t quite fit in at school, he is terrified about his future, but little does he know, Jamie is going to be a sensation.

Layton Williams as Jamie is incredible, he owns the stage with the power and energy he brings. His confident sassy delivery of dialogue is comedy gold, the audience were in stitches all the way through this musical, especially with some of the outragous throwaway lines. His representation of a character that is part of the LGBT community was also perfect, that is definitely one of the beautiful aspects of this production, there is no limitations, they let each character be who want to be, and Layton definitely embraces this in his characterization of Jamie. Layton’s singing voice is simply devine and he does not shy away from adding riffs or belting beautifully within his solo songs. Layton Williams is definitely the star of this show, he brings so much and takes the audience on Jamie’s rollercoaster of a journey, leaving them craving more Jamie by the end.

Amy Ellen Richardson gives a stunning performance as Margaret New, the realism that Amy gives to this character is simply stunning. You really do feel the love she has for Jamie, and the desperation she has for him to succeed in life. The arguments we see between her and Jamie’s Dad (Cameron Johnson) are very tense, and devestating, but we see the beauty of Margaret’s humanity shine through. Amy’s performance of ‘He’s My Boy’ is something which alone is an amazing theatrical experience, the performance is heartbreaking enough to make the strongest members of the audience crumble. Margaret Campbell’s accepting and loving nature is portrayed sublimely by Amy, the audience fall in love with her, just as much as they fall in love with Jamie.

Shobna Gulati is bloody hillarious and strong as Ray. She represented a bystander who was watching Jamie’s life unfold, right enough, she did get involved and wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. The sass that Shobna Gulati gave the character is outragously brillaint, it was almost like the audience’s unfiltered opinions were speaking through her and it gave Jamie another parent figure to inspire him to live the life he wants. And her performance of Limited Edition Prom Night Special was so fun and uplifting.

Lara Denning played Miss Hedge, Jamie’s teacher who feels that he needs to be more realistic with his life choices. There is such uncertainty with how we feel about this character at first, as you feel a teacher would be very accepting. Lara takes Miss Hedge to the limit, giving her a professional demeanor, however with a bigoted undertone. There is definitely some great comedy moments in there as well, mainly a certain scene with penciled on eyebrows. But Lara’s vocal performing is great, she features in some of the shows musical highlights, ‘And You Don’t Even Know It’ and ‘Work of Art’, in the opening number she actually raps, seamlessly. Lara’s performance in this musical is thought provoking and enjoyable.

Sharan Phull as Pritti Pasha, is outstanding, her representation of the Muslim community, is one which is much needed, as much as diversity is at an all-time high within the UK’s theatres, some of these characters are not given an accurate portrayal of the real issues people within these communities are facing. However, with Pritti’s story, there is no filter we see upfront the real struggles these people are going through. Sharan’s portrayal of Pritti shines a light on these issues in a perfect scope, the way she opens up and becomes vulnerable to the audience to see the struggles that Pritti is going through, is so daring and raw. Sharan’s acting ability is so natural and believable, the audience relates with her pain. Sharan’s vocal technique while singing is impeccable, ‘It Means Beautiful’ is one of the most emotional songs featured and this is purely down to Sharan’s performance.

Shane Richie is absolutely fabulous and hilarious as Hugo Battersby. This is a really unexpected character for Shane to slip into so brilliantly. The humour and supportive nature of the character is portrayed with such energy and charisma by Shane. Highlights of this portayal are Shane’s musical numbers guiding Jamie with brilliant performances of ‘The Legend of Loco Chanelle’ and ‘Over the Top’. Also, JP McCue as Laika Virgin, Rhys Taylor as Tray Sophisticay and Garry Lee as Sandra Bollock (love it), were all so fabulously on point as the drag queens that featured within this diverse piece of theatre.

Cameron Johnston, made us hate Jamie’s dad with his no mercy delivery of his lines. As much as the dialogue was brutally honest, Cameron gave out the dialogue with no apology, which really made it apparent that Jamie’s dad is an arsehole. This is probably the most hated character in musical theatre right now, and it’s all down to Cameron’s brilliant characterization.

George Sampson bounced on stage giving us a character to partly hate in the shape of Dean Paxton, as at points he was shockingly vile, but by the end it was clear this was a young male, lapping up the dream of school popularity. Seeing two sides to the story was an interesting insight, and George really did well in making this character’s story belivable, letting the audience feel empathy towards him.

There is a strong ensemble in this production where each individual has moments on stage which is not usual.  The ensemble is made up of Richard Appiah-Sarpong as Cy, Simeon Beckett as Levi, Kazmin Borrer as Vicki, Ellis Brownhill as Mickey, Jodie Knight as Fatimah, Jessica Meegan as Bex, Talia Palamathanan as Becca, Adam Taylor as Sayid, Alex Hetherington and Emma Robotham-Hunt are swings. All of these actors carry a huge weight of energy and passion into this musical and work splendidly together.

Matt Ryan directs this production for the UK Tour, he emphasizes some of the realism of this story and manages to blend that into some of the bigger numbers. There is a very good balance in this musical, similar to ‘Billy Elliot The Musical’where even though there is clear fiction at points, it doesn’t go too over the top considering this is based on the true story of Jamie Campbell. And this is thanks to the brilliant vision that Jonathan Butterell originally brought while directing the original production and also what Matt continues to capture within the new touring production of this musical. Katie Prince’s choreography is insane and stunning in this production. Katie Prince’s choreography leaves the audience breathless at moments, a highlight is the movement duet within ‘If I Met Myself Again’, utterly beautiful.

Anna Fleischle also adds to this by supplying excellent costume and set design. The genius in this is with the set having very dull colours, Anna supplies Jamie with bright, colourful designs for his costume, which shows the contrasts of him and the real world.  The minimalism on stage with the folding room works brilliantly, plus the set is complimented by bursting with colour from Lucy Carter’s lighting design which beautifully matched the tone in every scene, plus supplied an elevation of energy in the musical numbers.

Dan Gillespie Sell’s music in this production is contemporary and varies, which is everything you want within a musical, and there couldn’t be a better soundtrack for this story. Tom MacRae supplies very suitable, plus ingenious lyrics for this musical event, and he also writes the book for this production, supplying a brilliant adaption of Jamie Campbell’s story.

The story of Jamie New has FINALLY landed in Scotland with a superb cast, and crew which help deliver this inspiring story to a whole new audience. Jamie Campbell’s story is one which will touch the hearts of audience members, especially those who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. This musical is the glitter in the grey, it takes us out of the darkness and into the future of musical theatre so fabulously.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Written by Lewis C. Baird

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