Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Review – Sheffield Lyceum
By Helen Johnston, February 2020
It’s taken three years but Jamie is home again in the city where his story began. And what a story it is.
Jamie Campbell was the working class lad who wanted to wear a dress to his Year 11 prom, prompting a BBC 3 documentary and inspiring the musical which burst on to the stage at the Sheffield Crucible in 2017.
“Every inch the diva”
Now it’s out on tour and is back in Sheffield but this time at the Lyceum, where real life Jamie was there to welcome the crowds last night, together with his mum Margaret.
Looking gorgeous in a floor length strapless gown and gold dangly earrings (that’s Jamie, not his mum), he was the focus of dozens of selfies, including one with yours truly. Well, it would have been rude not to.
Real life Jamie was played on stage by the fabulously flamboyant Layton Williams, reprising the role he has played at the Apollo. With his bleached blonde hair, sassy poses, and enviable ability to walk in sky-high heels, he looked every inch the diva even when wearing his standard issue school uniform.
The show’s opening scene of a careers teacher trying to encourage 16-year-olds to take their exams seriously is such a familiar one that the story is immediately relatable. While most of them have no idea what they want to do when they leave school, Jamie is certain. He wants to be a drag queen.
“Love so powerful”
He knows this won’t be easy for a northern working class lad, telling his best friend Pritti (Sharan Phull) that being a drag queen is a real thing you can be, just not in Parson Cross.
Pritti rallies behind him but his dream is met with disgust by his dad and with derision by the class bully. However, Jamie’s mum Margaret (Amy Ellen Richardson) gives him her unconditional support and buys him his first pair of lipstick-red high heels for his 16th birthday.
When they later fall out over the way she has tried to cover up his dad’s rejection of him, Richardson produces a heart-rending moment when she stands alone on stage to sing ‘He’s My Boy’. It’s a message of a mother’s love so powerful that the woman sitting next to me sobbed quietly throughout.
This is ultimately an uplifting story though with a lot of laughs in it. Shane Ritchie is excellent as Jamie’s unexpected mentor Hugo, aka drag queen Loco Chanelle. Ritchie (who also played the role at the Apollo) is first seen with his feet up reading a copy of the Sheffield Telegraph and produces a Sheffield accent good enough to fit in down at the Moor Market.
Another familiar face is Shobna Gulati who plays Margaret’s best friend Ray and has some of the best comic lines, such as when she brings back knock-off chocolate bars called Twox and Murs Bar, and a box of After Sevens.
Gorgeous frocks, over the top make-up, live music, laughter and tears – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a fabulous night out. And no doubt people will be talking about it for quite some time to come.
images: Matt Crockett