Myrthe Leenders reviews

Everybody's Talking About Jamie

Everybody's talking about Jamie, quite literally. The West End musical which has won several awards is now well on its way to conquer the rest of the UK and Amsterdam. Perhaps it is the fact that it is based on Firecracker's 2011 documentary following the real-life Jamie Campbell getting ready for his prom, or that Jamie himself, in full merchandised dress extravaganza, is welcoming the audience in the foyer. First impressions from the audience makes me looking forward to a heartwarming evening full of dance and drag, enjoyable by all generations.

The show kicks off with Jamie (played by Layton Williams) and his Year 11 class fantasising about their futures and dancing on tables. At first it is a welcome surprise to hear the Sheffield accents, but that soon turns into a helpless blur of specific words, phrases, jabs and jokes that I can make neither heads nor tails from. The actors frequently jump into each others sentences making it hard to follow who says what, and what they actually say. The jokes that I do manage to catch are absolutely hilarious though, and from the laughter in the audience I can tell many teenagers there can relate. The relationship between Jamie and his mother (Amy Ellen Richardson) is full of warmth and hope for the future, the same goes for Jamie's friendship with Pritti Pasha (Sharan Phull). The number of professional drag queens on stage is really a show in itself, and the advice and attention they give to Jamie must be secretly cherished by soon-to-be drag queens in the audience.

I wonder how the musical will be received in Amsterdam, and during future tours in Korea/Italy (2020) and China/Japan (2021). I'm not quite sure if it was the accents, the sound level differences, the singing in generally, or the local jibes - sadly, I only really followed about 40% of the story. During talking or singing there was quite some background noise, such as a desk or the buzzing of loud music, that was essentially at the same volume as the primary voice. The music was modern, so 2011 (I'm honestly not surprised if Layton Williams will release a single with Sam Smith fairly soon), however the use of manipulated samples instead of a real orchestra or band really flattened out the songs as they sounded tinny and fake.

Though I'm happy to have learned about the couragous story of Jamie Campbell, I feel this musical might have gone a bit too far in terms of creative licence. I hope for the next tour they can keep it real, keep it Jamie. And as he told me during interval: "More dancing on tables, please!"

Everybody's Talking about Jamie runs at the Festival Theatre until 7 March 2020.