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

‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ has returned to the Edinburgh Festival Theatre! The original UK Tour had a stint at the Festival Theatre back in 2020, literally days before lockdown was imposed, now most of the original cast have returned to the Festival Theatre for another successful stint. ‘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 is superb, he owns the stage with his comic, bright and at points vulnerable portrayal of Jamie New. 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 outrageous throwaway lines. Layton’s singing within this production is excellent, whether it’s adding riffs or belting beautifully, his vocal talent is impressive. Layton truly embodies and embraces the beautifully queer personality of Jamie, bringing an inspiring representation of the glitter in the grey.

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 devastating, 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. 

Sasha Latoya is chuffing hilarious as Ray. The sass, the sarcasm and also the love all equate to a brilliant performance. The unfiltered character was portrayed perfectly, at points it was almost like the audience’s unfiltered opinions were speaking through her. Sasha’s performance of ‘Limited Edition Prom Night Special’ was so fun and uplifting. This is a fabulous performance. 

Lara Denning plays Miss Hedge, Jamie’s teacher who feels that Jamie 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 are definitely some great comedy moments in there as well, mainly a certain scene with penciled on eyebrows. Lara’s vocal performance 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 that people of colour 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. 

Rhys Taylor (covering for Shane Richie) is hysterically fabulous as Hugo Battersby. The humour and supportive nature of the character is portrayed with such energy and naturalism by Rhys. Highlights of this portayal are Rhys’ musical numbers guiding Jamie with brilliant performances of ‘The Legend of Loco Chanelle’ and ‘Over the Top’. Also, John Paul McCue as Laika Virgin, Gary Lee as Tray Sophisticay and Cameron Johnson as Sandra Bollock (hilarious), 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 believable, 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, Ryan Hughes as Mickey, Jodie Knight as Fatimah, Zahra Jones 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 the UK Tour, the naturalism in terms of the emotion and also humour of this piece works perfectly, Matt has kept Johnathan Butterell’s vision from the original West End production and yet has managed to mature it, this seems like a much more well-oiled machine than previous productions, including the original leg of the tour. 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’, simply stunning. 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. 

‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ is a fabulous theatrical event which uplifts audiences of all ages. This UK Touring production has a stellar cast, crew and creative team who dazzle audiences with humour, stunning vocals and an important story of fighting to be who you want to be.  

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Get your tickets for ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ at Edinburgh Festival Theatre below (running till Saturday 2nd April):

https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/everybodys-talking-about-jamie-2022

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